Is it all about Greece?

February 19, 2015 09:02 AM

U.S. stock-index futures fell as oil prices tumbled for a second day and Germany rejected a proposal from Greece to seek an extension of its loan facilities from euro- area creditors.

Contracts on the S&P 500 expiring in March fell 0.3% to 2,090.10 at 9:06 a.m. in New York. Dow Jones Industrial Average futures fell 47 points, or 0.3%, to 17,946 today.

Futures advanced earlier after the European Commission said a letter by Greece’s government requesting the extension of its loan facilities could pave the way for a compromise agreement. Gains were quickly erased after a German government official said Greece’s request is not in line with agreed criteria for the euro region.

Euro-area finance ministry officials are scheduled to assess the letter later today. If they see room for an agreement, the currency bloc’s finance ministers will convene tomorrow.

The S&P 500 was little changed Wednesday, erasing a loss as speculation that the Federal Reserve will keep rates lower for longer overshadowed a drop in energy shares. Minutes from the Fed’s latest meeting showed some policy makers argued for keeping rates low for longer amid risks facing the economy.

Economic Data

The Federal Open Market Committee pointed to a strengthening dollar, international flash points from Greece to Ukraine, and slow wage growth as weakening the case for the first rate rise since 2006, according to a record of the Jan. 27-28 meeting.

The FOMC said after its last meeting it “can be patient” as it considers when to raise the benchmark interest rate, even as it described the labor market as “strong.” A report the following week showed payrolls rose more than forecast in January to cap the strongest three-month gain in 17 years.

Fewer Americans than forecast filed applications for unemployment benefits last week, showing the labor market is making progress. Jobless claims fell by 21,000 to 283,000 in the week ended Feb. 14, from 304,000 in the prior period, a Labor Department report showed Thursday in Washington.

Data due at 10 a.m. New York time will show the index of U.S. leading indicators increased in January for a fifth straight month, economists forecast.

Oil Retreats

Oil retreated for a second day before U.S. government data forecast to show crude stockpiles in the world’s biggest consumer expanded to a record level.

Exxon Mobil Corp. dropped 1.5%. Halliburton Co., the world’s second-largest oilfield services company, lost 2.8%.

Transocean Ltd. slid 2% as analysts said the owner of the world’s largest fleet of offshore rigs will have to do more than slash its dividend by 80% to weather the oil price crash.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s fourth-quarter profit exceeded analysts forecasts, but shares fell 1.4% after the retail giant said wage increases and spending on e-commerce initiatives will pressure operating income this year.

Earnings Season

Nordstrom Inc. is among 18 companies releasing financial results Thursday.

Earnings for S&P 500 companies will probably drop in the next two quarters after a 4.2% increase in the last three months of 2014, according to analysts’ forecasts compiled by Bloomberg. More than 80% of S&P 500 companies have reported results for the final quarter of 2014, with 75% beating profit estimates, while 57% topped sales projections, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

Priceline Group Inc. jumped 8.7% after posting better-than-estimated fourth-quarter earnings.

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