Investors are hoping that the Dow will start to pull out of its February slump today. Yesterday, the Dow Jones industrial average dropped 326 points after reports of sluggish U.S growth added to investor worries about the global economy. It was the biggest one-day decline for the blue-chip index in more than seven months. The Dow closed yesterday at 15,372.80. The S&P 500 lost 40.70 points, or 2.3 percent, to 1,741.89. The Nasdaq composite dropped 106.92 points, or 2.6 percent, to 3,996.96. Futures point to gains at this morning's opening.
- Japan's Nikkei 225 stock average dived more than 4 percent today as weakness in U.S. and Chinese manufacturing sent international stock markets sharply lower. Early European trading mirrored the slide in Asia. Benchmark U.S. crude oil rose above $96.50 a barrel. The dollar gained against the euro and the yen.
- The Commerce Department's report on factory orders for December is the only major piece of U.S. economic data expected today. As for corporate earnings, Panasonic reports quarterly financial results before the market opens.
- U.S. companies are reporting strong profits for the fourth quarter of last year. But most are failing to impress investors who were hoping for even more and are too worried about larger global economic forces to do much buying. With results in from half of the companies in the S&P 500 index, fourth-quarter earnings are up a respectable 7.3 percent. Of the 250 companies that have reported results, 172 have beaten expectations and 51 have fallen short, a better ratio than average. It hasn't been enough to keep stock markets from sliding.
- The finger-pointing is on between banks and big retailers in the wake of the Target data breach. At issue: Which industry bears more responsibility for protecting consumers? The retailers say banks must upgrade their credit card security technology. The banks say that wouldn't have helped in the Target breach and retailers need to tighten their card processing security.