Futures Slightly Lower as EU Debt Worries Linger


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Stock futures pointed to a flat-to-negative open Friday after investors walked away from the two-day European Union sovereign debt summit disappointed and Moody’s downgraded Ireland’s credit rating by several notches.

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As of 9:05 a.m. in New York, the Dow Jones Industrial Average futures fell 1 point to 11430, the S&P 500 futures were unchanged at 1238.50 and the Nasdaq 100 futures fell 0.25 points to 2219.00.

Members of the EU wrapped up their two-day summit today to discuss ways to contain the continent's ongoing sovereign debt crisis, where EU leaders agreed in principle to create a debt-crisis program for countries in case something like this happens again. However, the program was only laid out and is not expected to take form until 2013 – doing little to solve the immediate crisis.

Meanwhile also in Europe, credit rating agency Moody’s slashed Ireland’s credit rating by five notches on Friday from “Aa2” to “Baa1” and kept a negative outlook on the country’s credit situation. While Moody’s had earlier warned it was going to slash Ireland’s credit rating by more than a few notches, the cut was still notable and yield’s on Irish bonds widened yet again.

Both news stories had a modest impact on European trading, with the continent’s major indices down between 0.2% and 0.3% and the euro losing modest ground against the dollar.

Here in the U.S., Wall Street will have a chance to react to the House of Representatives finally voting on an extension of the Bush tax cuts just before midnight Thursday. The two-year extension will now be sent to President Obama’s desk, where he has indicated he will sign it into law.

Shares of software giant Oracle Corp. (NASDAQ:ORCL) rose 4% in pre-market trading posted an adjusted profit of 51 cents per share, well ahead of the 46 cents a share that analysts had been looking for.

In commodities, oil was down 0.2% to $87.52 a barrel and gold was essentially unchanged at $1,371.10 a troy ounce.

Company News

BlackBerry maker Research in Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM) posted a 45% gain in earnings on Thursday on strong sales of its well-used smartphones. RIMM said it earned $1.74 per share on revenue of $5.49 billion versus the $1.64 per share on revenue of $5.4 billion that analysts had expected.

Video game maker Take-Two Interactive (NASDAQ:TTWO) said it swung to a 4Q profit on Thursday, posting earnings of 58 cents per share on revenue of $373.7 million.

AstraZeneca (NYSE:AZN) shares fell nearly 6% on Friday after the FDA said it would delay approval of its heart drug Brillinta until more data is provided. Analysts told Dow Jones that the FDA's move could push back the U.S. sale of Brillinta by six months to a year.

Global Markets

The U.K.'s FTSE 100 fell 0.17% to 5870.91, France's CAC 40 lost 0.16% to 3881.95 and Germany's DAX was down 0.37% to 6998.07.

In Asia, Tokyo's Nikkei 225 was down 0.07% to 10303.80, Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 0.2% to 22714.80 and China's Shanghai Composite fell 0.15% to 2893.74.

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