After Torrid Run, Stocks Set to Cool

The stock market can be described as the Energizer Bunny: it keeps going and going and going.  But when will it stop, and when will investors start taking money off the table?

U.S. stock futures are looking at a modestly lower open, after a stellar run up last week that lifted the S&P 500 2.4%, clinching its best week in three months. Investors cheered strong retail sales, an improvement in jobless claims, and relatively tame inflation data last week.

This week’s attention turns to the housing market. Investors get the National Association of Home Builders housing market index for March, plus new and existing home sales for February, and housing starts.

The battered housing market has long been the Achilles heel in the economic recovery. So, too, are high gas prices, with the national average rising to $3.84 a gallon, according to AAA, a record for this time of year.

United Parcel Servicee (NYSE:UPS) says it agreed to buy TNT Express, Europe’s second-largest shipper, for $6.7 billion.  UPS said the deal is a 54% premium to TNT’s closing price on Feb. 17, before the first offer was made.  UPS shares are up a tenth of one percent in the pre-market.

Even a large buyback and the initiation of a quarterly dividend from Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) couldn't get stock futures going. Apple said it will start a quarterly payout of $2.65 a share starting in the fourth quarter, and will also buy back $10 billion in stock.