Futures Seek Direction as Traders Weigh Earnings, Europe

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Stock-index futures bounced between modest gains and losses as traders weighed earnings from several big-name companies and a slew of developments from Europe.

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Today's Markets

As of 9:23 a.m. ET, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures fell 7 points to 12413, S&P 500 futures slipped 0.5 point to 1289 and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 3 points to 2393.

Wall Street has been off to a strong start so far this year, with the Dow presently sitting at its highest level since July.

Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) posted a fourth-quarter profit of $1.84 a share on $6.1 billion in revenue. Analysts expected the investment banking giant to earn $1.24 on sales of $6.5 billion. Shares were up 2.3% in pre-market trading following the report.

Traders have been keeping a close eye on developments from Europe, where the debt crisis is still posing a serious threat to many world economies. The International Monetary Fund is considering a plan to boost its lending firepower to $1 trillion, according to a report from Bloomberg News, citing an unnamed official of a Group of 20 nations.

The Washington-based group is pushing for China, Brazil, Russia, India, Japan and oil-exporting nations to boost their contributions and is looking for a resolution by its late-February meeting, the report said.

The IMF said on Tuesday it is assessing the adequacy of its resources.

“Fund management and staff will explore options for increasing the Fund’s firepower, subject to adequate safeguards," IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said in an e-mailed statement.

Also on the European front, the Greek government is still struggling to hash out a deal with creditors on the size of private-sector losses on its debt. The talks, which are resuming on Wednesday, fell through last week. If a deal can't be struck, it may lead to a Greek debt default when the country's next major payment comes due in March, analysts have said.

The euro rose 0.49% to $1.2799, while the U.S. dollar slipped 0.32% against six world currencies.

Market participants also got a fresh read on wholesale inflation and industrial production on the day.

The Producer Price Index fell 0.1% in December from November, compared with expectations of a 0.1% gain. Excluding the more volatile food and energy components, core prices were up 0.3% on the month, a bigger increase than the 0.1% economists forecast. Inflation at the producer level has jumped 4.8% from the year prior, or 3% on the core level.

The more closely-watched report on consumer prices is on tap for Thursday. Meanwhile, industrial production was up 0.4% in December from the month prior, slightly weaker than the 0.5% gain economists were looking for.

Commodities were mixed. The benchmark crude oil contract traded in New York rose 38 cents, or 0.41%, to $101.12 a barrel. Wholesale RBOB gasoline jumped 2.2% to $2.831 a gallon.

In metals, gold was unchanged at $1,655.

Foreign Markets

European blue chips fell 0.06%, the English FTSE 100 dipped 0.06% to 5,690 and the German DAX rose 0.18% to 6,344.

In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei rallied 0.99% to 8,551 and the Chinese Hang Seng climbed 0.3% to 19,687.

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