Stock futures little changed as dollar weakens, investors await housing, inflation data

By Stephen Bernard, AP
Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Stock futures little changed ahead of opening

NEW YORK — Stock futures traded in a narrow range Monday after members of the Group of 20 nations pledged to cut budget deficits and consumers remain tentative about spending.

The lack of any big moves comes ahead of a big week of domestic economic data, culminating with the key monthly jobs report due out Friday. Investors will want to see private sector job growth because any signs of hiring would likely add confidence that the economy is improving.

Economic reports in recent months have painted a mixed picture about the pace of a recovery. A new report Monday showed consumers are still nervous about the economy and holding onto their earnings. Spending in May rose at a slower pace than income.

The slow recovery has led some leaders to push for new stimulus measures to bolster growth, though a jump in government spending would make it difficult to control deficits.

The debate between spending to stimulate slowly growing economies and opting for fiscal austerity to quickly get ballooning deficits under control continued at the G20 meetings over the weekend. The G20, a group of rich and developing nations, agreed over the weekend that industrialized nations would slash deficits in half by 2013. But they could not resolve differences between stimulus spending and cost cutting measures.

World leaders did, however, say they would not pull back government support too quickly if they feared it would stagnate the nascent global rebound.

Some European nations have been pushing for steep spending cuts to avoid problems such as those encountered by Greece in recent months. Greece needed a European Union-led bailout to avoid bankruptcy. Questions about the pace of growth in Europe have dragged down stocks in recent months and hurt the euro, the currency used by 16 European countries.

Ahead of the opening bell, Dow Jones industrial average futures fell 10, or 0.1 percent, to 10,094. Standard & Poor’s 500 index futures fell 0.40, or less than 0.1 percent, to 1,074.30, while Nasdaq 100 index futures rose 4.50, or 0.2 percent, to 1,843.75.

The Commerce Department said consumer spending rose 0.2 percent last month, just above the 0.1 percent growth forecast by economists polled by Thomson Reuters.

Growth was slow, even though personal income rose 0.4 percent. A bigger jump in income than spending means consumers are still unsure about their financial position and choosing to save their money. Weak spending could continue to hamper growth because consumer spending is the biggest driver of the economy.

Even as stock futures were set for gains, investors still showed some indecisiveness, sending bond prices slightly higher. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves opposite its price, fell to 3.10 percent from 3.11 percent late Friday.

Treasurys often rise when investors are uncertain about the strength of the economy because they are stable investments that produce modest gains.

The euro fell to $1.2342.

Oil dropped 36 cents to $78.50 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. A tropical storm in the Gulf of Mexico is projected to avoid hitting the area affected by the oil spill.

Overseas, Britain’s FTSE 100 rose 0.2 percent, Germany’s DAX index gained 1.1 percent, and France’s CAC-40 rose 1 percent. Japan’s Nikkei stock average fell 0.5 percent.

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