European Debt Worries Weigh on Markets

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U.S. markets were poised for a lower open Wednesday as more European sovereign debt worries – this time out of Spain – weighed on equities both here and across the Atlantic.

As of 9:20 a.m. in New York, the Dow Jones Industrial Average futures were down 17 points to 11404, the S&P 500 futures fell 4.5 points to 1233.30 and the Nasdaq 100 futures fell 2.75 points to 2211.25.

The credit agency Moody’s Investor Service issued a warning Wednesday that it was putting Spain’s “Aa1” credit rating on review for a possible downgrade. In a statement, Moody’s analysts said Spain’s high debt level leaves the Mediterranean country vulnerable to the current hostile state of the markets toward debt-laden countries.

Spain’s stock market dropped 2% on the news, dragging the continent’s other major indices with it.

It also put selling pressure on the euro, which was down 0.4% against the dollar. Commodities were also lower with both oil and gold futures down 1%.

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Here in the U.S., Wall St. reacted to two economic reports focusing on inflation and manufacturing but the conditions in Europe eclipsed what was generally-positive economic data.

The Labor Department reported that consumer prices rose 0.1% in the month, below the 0.2% rise that economists had expected. It was the first consecutive monthly rise in the indicator, but inflation remains tame as general economic conditions outweigh rising food and energy costs.

Meanwhile a New York-state manufacturing index returned to positive territory this month, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York said Wednesday. The Empire State manufacturing gauge rose to a +10.57 compared with the -11.14 the index reported in November.

Later this morning, traders will get industrial production figures from the Federal Reserve. 

Company News

Novartis (NVS) and eye care company Alcon (ACL) agreed to complete a merger that the two companies began more than a year ago. Novartis will pay Alcon shareholders $168 a share for the remaining 23% stake that  Novartis doesn't already own. 

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