Stock Futures Point Higher Ahead of Numerous Earnings Reports

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Richard Drew/AP
By Sreeja VN

U.S. stock futures point to a higher open Wednesday, ahead of the publication of new home sales data and quarterly earnings statements from major American companies, including Facebook, Ford, PepsiCo, Qualcomm, Visa and Boeing.

Futures on the Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) were up 0.2 percent, while futures on the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GSPC) were up 0.3 percent and those on the Nasdaq 100 Index were up 0.9 percent.

Investors are expected to focus on new home sales data for June, to be released by the Commerce Department, at 10 a.m. Eastern time. Analysts expect new home sales -- the annualized number of new single-family homes that were sold during the previous month -- may probably increase to 485,000 in June from 476,000 in the previous month.


New home sales had recorded a better-than-expected gain in May, helped by a pick-up in demand, while existing home sales data for June, which was released Monday, showed a decline. Analysts attributed the fall to a recent hike in mortgage interest rates and believe new home sales could still increase in June.

"With the NAHB current sales index still rising strongly, we have penciled in an increase in new sales from 476,000 in May to 485,000," Paul Diggle, an economist with Capital Economics, wrote in a research note.

On the earnings front, a number of major companies, including Caterpillar (CAT), Eli Lilly & Co. (LLY), EMC Corp. (EMC), US Airways Group, (LCC), Ford (F), PepsiCo (PEP) and Boeing (BA), will announce quarterly earnings before market hours. Visa (V), Western Digital (WDC), Qualcomm (QCOM) and Facebook (FB) are to announce their earnings after markets close Wednesday.

Markit Economics' flash Purchasing Managers' Index, or PMI, for the manufacturing sector in the month of July, is scheduled to be released at 9 a.m. Eastern time. The index, which measures the activity level of purchasing managers in the manufacturing sector, is expected to show a reading of 52.5 in July, up from the 51.9 recorded in June. A reading below 50 indicates contraction.

European markets were trading higher Wednesday, as investor sentiments were buoyed after flash PMIs for the euro zone's manufacturing and services sectors beat expectations. The 17-nation eurozone's manufacturing PMI for July came in at 50.1 compared to 48.8 in the previous month. The services PMI registered a reading of 49.6 compared to 48.3 in June.

Germany's manufacturing PMI came in at 50.3 in July, up from 48.6 in June while the nation's services PMI was at 52.5 in July, up from 50.4 in June. Meanwhile, in neighboring France, while the PMIs stayed in contraction territory, they showed a slowdown in the pace of contraction with the country's manufacturing PMI recording 49.8 in July, up from 48.4 in June while France's services PMI was at 48.3 in July, up from 47.2 in June.

The Stoxx Europe 600 index rose 0.6 percent, London's FTSE 100 was up 0.7 percent, Germany's DAX-30 was up 0.6 percent and France's CAC-40 was trading up 0.9 percent.

In China, HSBC's Flash Manufacturing PMI for July, released Wednesday, showed that the manufacturing sector of the world's second-largest economy contracted for a third-straight month and at its quickest pace since last August.

The preliminary reading of the survey for July at 47.7 -- an 11-month low -- was against market expectations for the PMI to hold steady at 48.2, and China's Shanghai Composite index fell 1.3 percent after the news in mid-morning trade, but trimmed losses to end down 0.5 percent. However, the PMI data failed to significantly impact other markets in the region as the disappointing numbers sparked hopes that Beijing would launch stimulus measures soon.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index closed up 0.2 percent while South Korea's KOSPI Composite index ended up 0.4 percent and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.4 percent.

India's BSE Sensex was trading down 1.2 percent in late-afternoon trade Wednesday, after the Reserve Bank of India took measures to tighten liquidity in the banking system to arrest the rupee's free fall against the dollar. In Japan, the Nikkei lost 0.3 percent after the yen strengthened against the U.S. dollar.

Earlier on Wednesday, Japan reported a 7.4 percent jump in exports helped by a weaker yen, which has depreciated more than 27 percent against the dollar during the past year. However, the data disappointed markets as analysts had expected exports to grow by 10.3 percent.


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