Greek Troubles Weigh on Stock Futures


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Stock-index futures pointed to a solidly lower open on Wall Street after renewed fears over the euro zone debt crisis spooked market participants across the world.

Today's Markets

As of 8:50 a.m. ET, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures fell 55 points to 10,786, S&P 500 futures dipped 6 points to 1,120 and Nasdaq 100 futures slid 16.5 points to 2,118.

Wall Street is coming off of its worst quarter since the financial crisis in 2008, with the Dow shedding 1,501 points, and the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq both plunging more than 12%.  Many of the same fears that ruled the day last quarter are still present as the markets kick off the last quarter of the year.

The specter of a Greek default has rattled the markets for months.  The embattled country needs billions of euros in rescue funding from international lenders to pay the next tranche of debt that comes due this month.  However, weakening economic conditions, and political uncertainty across the euro currency bloc have paved a perilous path for Greece.  Indeed, according to a draft budget approved by Greece's cabinet Sunday, the country's deficit is forecast to weigh in at 8.5% of economic output in 2011, well higher than targets of 7.6%.

Austerity measures aimed at slicing the deficit are key factor in whether the European Union and International Monetary Fund will act to provide Greece with the next aid tranche.  With the last inspection of Greece by the so-called "troika" completed over the weekend, euro zone finance ministers are meeting in Luxembourg on Monday to discuss the next steps for Greece, however, market participants widely don't expect any specific decisions to be made on Monday.

European markets were slammed by the Greek troubles, with the Euro Stoxx 50 falling more than 2%, and big french banks like BNP Paribas (NYSE:BNPQY) sustaining losses of as much as 5%.

The American economy will also come into focus this week, with the monthly unemployment report on tap for Friday.

The Institute for Supply Management's gauge of manufacturing activity is forecast to have fallen slightly to 50.5 in September, from 50.6 the prior month.  The ISM data are considered to be a key barometer of the manufacturing sector, and can impact a wide swath of stocks like General Electric (NYSE:GE) and Boeing (NYSE:BA).

The report comes on the heels of a considerably better-than-expected report from the Chicago area.

Construction spending, meanwhile, is anticipated to have fallen 0.4% in August after dipping 1.3% in the prior month.

In the foreign exchange market, the euro gained 0.09% against the U.S. dollar, while the greenback rose 0.09% against a basket of world currencies.

Energy futures were mixed after sustaining heavy losses last quarter.  Light, sweet crude fell $1.00, or 1.3%, to $78.21 a barrel.  Wholesale RBOB gasoline climbed a penny to $2.63  a gallon.

In metals, gold soared $35.90, or 2.2%, to $1,658 a troy ounce.

Corporate News

Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO) shares soared on a report from the Wall Street Journal that Alibaba's Chairman Jack Ma said he is "very interested" in the search company.

Foreign Markets

The Euro Stoxx 50 fell 2.2% to 2,133, the English FTSE 100 dipped 1.6% to 5,049 and the German DAX tumbled 2.6% to 5,361.

In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 shed 1.8% to 8,545 and the Chinese Hang Seng plunged 4.4% to 16,822.