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Pre-Market Primer: Stocks Rise Ahead of Factory, Auto Data


The eurozone is still in apocalypse mode.

US stock futures pointed to a higher open as anticipation of strong factory orders and auto sales offset a bevy of grim economic indicators from the eurozone.

Stocks bounced back from yesterday's losses ahead of the data releases. Dow (INDEXDJX:.DJI) futures are up 0.40% at 14,547. S&P 500 (INDEXSP:.INX) futures rose 0.42% to 1,562.40 and Nasdaq (INDEXNASDAQ:.IXIC) futures gained 0.66% to 2,806.50.

Factory orders are expected to show a rise of 2.9% in February after a 2% drop in January. The ISM Manufacturing Index for February showed a robust expansion, followed by less steep growth in March. The factory orders data will be released at 10:00 a.m.

Eurozone unemployment hit a fresh high of 12% in February, matching an upwardly-revised figure for January. Austria had it best at 4.8% unemployment, and Greece was worst off with 26.4%. Spain was right behind with 26.3% jobless. Youth unemployment also rose in most of the troubled eurozone countries.

Today, Markit released purchasing manager's indices for several countries, adding to the pile of grim statistics for the eurozone. Spanish manufacturing PMI contracted even faster than feared. The index fell to 44.4 in March from 46.8 in February. (Readings lower than 50 signal contraction in the sector.) Italy's slide accelerated as well, falling to 44.5 from 45.4. France's doldrums continued, though the contraction was less steep last month at 44, up from 43.9 in the previous month. UK manufacturing descended slower as well, ticking up to 48.3 from 47.9. Even German manufacturing dipped to 49 last month from 50.3 in February.

Account holders at Cyprus' Laiki bank in the UK will escape the levy on deposits. The bailout of Cyprus was partly paid for by large uninsured deposits in the country's banks. Depositors, many of whom use the island for money laundering and tax-dodging, lose 37.5% of their savings and another 22.5% goes into a non-interest bearing fund that banks might reserve the right to take in case they need more help. Banks are under capital controls to prevent a total run on the banks and large scale capital flight to other countries.

US car makers will report March sales figures today. Industry experts expect to see an annualized rate of 15.6 million total sales, a fifth-straight month of sales over 15 million. Domestic cars probably accounted for 12.1 million of the total. General Motors (NYSE:GM), Ford (NYSE:F), and foreign automakers could see heavy trading if sales beat or miss expectations.

Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) shares are up slightly in the pre-market after yesterday's sell-off. CEO Tim Cook apologized for Apple's customer service in China. Chinese regulators complained that the repair policy for Apple products was less favorable than in other countries. Today, Goldman Sachs downgraded Apple to a buy from its conviction buy. Goldman had Apple listed as a conviction buy since late 2010. The analysts said that recent product cycle "has not driven the market share and new user growth we had anticipated" and it might be difficult for Apple to meet expectations in the company's fiscal second and third quarters.

Goldman also cut its rating on Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ) to sell from neutral, citing concerns about future sales of printers and servers.

Twitter: @vincent_trivett
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