Wall St set for flat open; factory data eyed

Source : REUTERS
Last Updated: Mon, Apr 02, 2012 14:06 hrs

By Angela Moon

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Wall Street was set for a flat open on Monday as investors eyed data on U.S. manufacturing for signs of improvement in the pace of growth.

The Institute for Supply Management's March manufacturing index, is due at 10 a.m. EDT (1400 GMT). Economists in a Reuters survey expect an improved reading of 53.0 versus 52.4 in February. In February, the pace of growth slowed after three consecutive months of gains, a reminder of the bumpy recovery.

The data comes after mixed reports on manufacturing in Europe and China. Europe's manufacturing sector shrank for an eighth straight month in March, according to Markit's Eurozone Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index, raised concerns about a recession in the region.

In contrast, Chinese manufacturing gained momentum in March, helped by a recovery in automotive, tobacco and electronics.

"What we are seeing this morning is nothing but noise coming off of another positive week last week, and I don't see a reason why the solid trend will not continue," said Andre Bakhos, director of market analytics at LEK Securities in New York.

"The market has been betting on positive economic numbers and I expect that to continue."

The market also awaited U.S. construction spending for February, due at 10 a.m. EDT (1400 GMT).

S&P 500 futures dipped 0.9 point but were in line with fair value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the contract. Dow Jones industrial average futures lost 5 points, while Nasdaq 100 futures were up 0.75 point.

U.S. stocks closed their strongest quarter in more than two years on a positive note on Friday, led by underperforming sectors like energy and health care.

Despite falling six of the last nine sessions, the S&P 500 gained 12 percent in the first quarter, its best start of the year since 1998 and the best overall quarter since the third period of 2009. The broad index sits just off 4-year highs.

The oil sector will be in the spotlight as French oil major Total SA prepared to fly experts to a North Sea oil platform ahead of an operation to cap a well spewing gas for the past week. U.S.-listed Total shares rose 0.5 percent to $51.39 in premarket trade.

Oil futures dropped 0.8 percent, with Brent crude slipping below $122 a barrel, following a 14 percent rise in the first quarter.

Equity markets will be closed for the Good Friday holiday, which could create lighter volume and increase volatility. The government will release the March payrolls report on Friday, which could leave investors reticent to make big bets ahead of the data. Trading volume was expected to be light all week.

Beauty company Coty Inc offered to buy cosmetics direct seller Avon Products Inc for $10 billion, or $23.25 a share, a 20 percent premium over Friday's closing price. Avon jumped 19 percent to $23.05 premarket.

Visa Inc dropped payment processor Global Payments Inc from its list of approved service providers after a major cyber intrusion. Visa, MasterCard Inc, American Express Co and Discover Financial Services all confirmed they were affected by the breach, which could expose their cardholders to fraudulent charges.

(Reporting By Angela Moon; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)



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