Stock Futures Fall; Factory Orders, FOMC Minutes Eyed


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Stock-index futures slipped on Tuesday as traders struck a cautious tone ahead of fresh data on U.S. factory orders and minutes from the last Federal Reserve meeting.

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Today's Markets

As of 8:05 a.m. ET, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures fell 24 points to 13165, S&P 500 futures dipped 2.6 points to 1410 and Nasdaq 100 futures were unchanged at 2777.

Despite being shortened by a day, this trading week is a crucial one from an economic reporting standpoint. The markets got better-than-expected U.S. manufacturing data on Monday, and other important reports are slated for release up to the key monthly employment report from the Labor Department on Friday.

Factory orders jumped 1.5% in February from the month prior, economists forecast ahead of the 10:00 a.m. ET report from the U.S. Census Bureau. Recent data have shown considerable improvement across the industrial sectors as the economy has recovered from the recession.

Later in the day, the Federal Reserve is set to release its minutes from its last monetary-policy meeting. Market participants pay close attention to the central bank's sentiment on the economy, and its expectations for monetary policy moves. It has already pledged to keep interest rates at extraordinarily low levels until late 2014, but some have hoped it will also unleash another round of asset purchases in a bid to accelerate growth further. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke hinted last week that further stimulus would be possible if the economy weakened.

Vehicle manufacturers also report their monthly sales on the day. Chrysler said its sales jumped 34% in March on a year-to-year basis to 163,381, the best level since March 2008. General Motors (NYSE:GM) and Ford (NYSE:F) are due out later in the day.

With gasoline prices soaring to the highest levels since 2008, analysts are expecting consumers' spending habits to change. Indeed, GM said on Monday sales of its most fuel-efficient autos jumped to an all-time high last month.

Oil prices pulled back after posting their best rally in more than a month on Monday. Crude traded in New York fell 83 cents, or 0.78%, to $104.41 a barrel. New York Harbor gasoline fell 1 cent, or 0.2%, to $3.375 a gallon.

In metals, gold dropped $2.90, or 0.17%, to $1,677 a troy ounce. Treasurys pushed higher, knocking yields down. The 10-year yield fell 0.016-percentage point to 2.17%.

Foreign Markets

European blue chips slipped 0.56%, the English FTSE 100 dipped 0.25% to 5860 and the German DAX slumped 0.21% to 7042.

In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 fell 0.59% to 10050 and the Chinese Hang Seng rallied 1.3% to 20791.

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