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Pre-Market Primer: US Trade Deficit Plummets; Icahn Snaps Up More Dell

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Heads, Icahn wins. Tails, Icahn still wins.

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Global stocks were mostly lower this morning following some mixed economic data from Europe and a report that the US trade deficit plunged.

Italy remained in recession for two full years. Data released today showed that GDP fell 0.2% in the second quarter. The contraction eased from 0.6% in the first quarter, and economists expected it to be twice as bad. Italy's industrial production in June improved 0.3%.

German manufacturing orders surprised on the upside overnight. Where experts predicted a decline in June, orders actually jumped 3.8% on a monthly basis.

Evidence of Britain's recovery continue to hit the wires. Industrial production was up 1.1% in June, beating expectations. Home prices are also skyrocketing. Halifax's home price index recorded a 4.6% annualized rise in prices between May and July, the biggest increase in the three-month moving average since August 2010.

The Bank of Australia loosened monetary policy last night, cutting benchmark interest rates to 2.5%.

The US trade deficit unexpectedly plummeted to $34.2 billion in June from $44.1 billion in May. Imports fell by $5.8 billion to $25.4 billion and exports jumped $4.1 billion to $191.2 billion.

Stock futures were lower before the opening bell. Dow (INDEXDJX:.DJI) futures were down 0.23% to 15,519 while futures contracts on the S&P 500 (INDEXSP:.INX) sank 0.21% to 1,699.00 and Nasdaq (INDEXNASDAQ:.IXIC) futures fell 0.09% to 3,133.25.

Later today, we will probably find out that job openings increased slightly over the month of June in the Labor Department's Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS). Economists expect openings to have increased to 3.85 million from 3.83 million in May. The JOLTS reading is a favorite indicator of Federal Reserve Board members, so investors will watch this one closely for hints about whether the central bank will taper off its asset purchases.

This afternoon, Chicago Fed President Charles Evans will deliver a speech.

In corporate news, Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) CEO Jeff Bezos shocked the media world yesterday when he said he will personally buy the The Washington Post Company's (NYSE:WPO) newspaper publishing business for $250 million. Bezos's plans for the struggling paper are not clear, but shares rose 4.3% in the pre-market after rising 1.56% yesterday.

Sony (NYSE:SNE) shares are down 4.7% after it rejected reorganization suggestions from Third Point manager Dan Loeb. The hedge fund manager suggested that Sony spin off its entertainment unit. Loeb owns about 7% of the Japanese company.

Activist investor Carl Icahn revealed in an SEC filing that he bought 4 million more shares of Dell (NYSE:DELL) at $12.94 per share. Even if Icahn fails to take the company private and it goes to founder Michael Dell , he still profits. Dell, together with Silver Lake, plan to take Dell private for $13.65 per share. Icahn already owns 8.9% of the company and he is the second largest shareholder.

Twitter: @vincent_trivett
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