Stock Futures Tilt Lower; Manufacturing Data in Focus

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Stock-index futures fell mildly on Monday in the first trading day following a blockbuster first quarter for Wall Street as traders digested manufacturing data from around the globe.

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Today's Markets

As of 9:00 a.m. ET, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures fell 17 points to 13125, S&P 500 futures dipped 0.7 point to 1403 and Nasdaq 100 futures slipped 1.8 points to 2749.

The S&P 500 surged 12% last quarter, the best start of a year for the broad-market index 14 years, while the Nasdaq has its best first quarter since 1991.

The global economy is expected to take the spotlight during the holiday-shortened trading week, with key reports on tap every day leading up to the monthly employment report from the Labor Department.

Manufacturing activity in China unexpectedly picked up steam in March from the month prior, official data released on Monday showed. The report helped ease tensions that the world's No. 2 economy may be in for a "hard landing." Still, the optimism was tempered by a private survey from HSBC that showed a weakening in the sector. Economists said the official data tend to get a positive uplift from seasonal factors, making it particularly challenging to interpret.

Meanwhile, manufacturing in the eurozone contracted for the eight month in a row in March, according to a closely-followed survey by Markit. The data showed the 17-member currency bloc's two biggest economies weakening for the month. Germany saw its first drop of 2012, while activity in France shrunk at its swiftest pace since June 2009.

“Eurozone manufacturers suffered a miserable March, with a renewed downturn in production wiping out marginal gains seen in the first two months of the year," Markit Chief Economist Chris Williamson said in a statement. "Prospects for April also look poor, with companies reporting steeper rates of decline for both new orders and backlogs of work."

On the U.S. front, traders were waiting for the manufacturing report from the Institute for Supply Management on tap for 10:00 a.m. ET. Economists forecast activity to have expanded at a slightly faster pace in March than in the month prior. At the same time, Wall Street will get a reading on construction spending for February.

Commodities were under modest pressure across the board. Oil traded in New York fell 64 cents, or 0.62%, to $102.39 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline dipped 0.31% to $3.39 a gallon.

In  metals, gold slipped $5.30, or 0.32%, to $1,666 a troy ounce.

Corporate News 

Coty offered to buy Avon Products (NYSE:AVP) for $23.25 a share, or $10 billion, which represents a roughly 20% premium on the cosmetic seller's closing price last week.

Foreign Markets

European blue chips fell 0.52%, the English FTSE 100 slipped 0.03% to 5767 and the German DAX rose 0.04% to 6949.

In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 edged higher by 0.26% to 10110 and the Chinese Hang Seng slumped 0.16% to 20522.

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