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Pre-Market Primer: Durable Goods Miss Expectations; US, UK, France Consider Release of Strategic Oil Reserves

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Stock futures in the US are up despite durable goods orders coming in below expectations, and the UK and France might join the US in a coordinated push to bring down oil prices.

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US futures are up this morning despite durable goods orders missing expectations.

Japanese stocks eased off of yesterday's one-year high and Chinese stocks sold off today. Asian officials are meeting in Cambodia this week to discuss doubling the amount of money already committed to a regional rescue fund. This fund is intended to work as an extra safety net for troubled economies in case the IMF is too tied up in Europe.

European stock markets are in negative territory today, reflecting mixed economic data releases. In Italy, Mario Monti's labor reforms and austerity measures helped lift March business confidence up from two-year lows in February. An index of manufacturing sector sentiment in Europe's fourth largest economy rose higher than expected this month. French GDP growth slowed slightly in the fourth quarter to 1.3% year-over-year. Britain's economy contracted by 0.3% in the fourth quarter, up just 0.5% year-over-year. Real household income fell 1.2%, the biggest drop since 1977. Inflation in Germany slowed from 0.7% in February to 0.4% in March.

US equity futures fluctuated in the morning, but pointed toward a positive open ahead of the release of durable goods orders.
  • Dow (^DJI) futures are up 0.18% at 13,148.00.
  • S&P 500 (SPY) futures are up 0.16% at 1,408.60.
  • Nasdaq (^IXIC) futures rose 0.19% to 2,781.00.
Durable goods rose 2.2% in February, missing expectations of 3% growth. January orders fell 4%. Excluding transportation, orders grew just 1.6%, less than the 1.7% rise expected.

The US, UK, and France are reportedly considering a coordinated release of oil from strategic reserves. Yesterday, a US Energy Department official confirmed that the US is seriously considering this move, which President Barack Obama discussed with David Cameron during his visit to Washington earlier this month. Spot oil has rallied nearly $20 since the beginning of the year thanks to Iran-Israeli saber-rattling that could close the Strait of Hormuz, failures at offshore facilities off the coast of Brazil and the North Sea, and supply disruptions in Africa. Increased production in Libya, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia helped offset price increases. Today, WTI crude is trading at $106.36/barrel, down 0.90%. Brent crude fell 0.87% to $124.45/barrel.

Family Dollar Stores (FDO), the second-largest discount chain in America, beat earnings estimates for the holiday quarter as it sold more food to cash-strapped customers that go to the store for essentials. The company plans to open as many as 450 stores in the near future. Family Dollar rose 0.7% before the bell.

Nokia (NOK) announced that it will be selling its Windows smartphones in China through China Telecom (CHA). Nokia has lost a good chunk of market share in Europe and the US to Apple (AAPL) and Samsung devices running Google's (GOOG) Android software. China is the next logical battleground in the smartphone wars. Nokia and Android phones could compete better with Apple in China on price.

Twitter: @vincent_trivett
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