AP Business Writer
POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Aug 16, 2011
LAST UPDATED: 5:00 a.m. HST, Aug 16, 2011
NEW YORK » U.S. stock futures fell today after more evidence pointed to a slowing global economy and threatened to end the market's three-day rally.
Germany's economy stalled last quarter, dragging down growth for Europe. That offset strong profit reports from blue-chip U.S. companies, and it may also erase hopes that the market had finally calmed down since Standard & Poor's downgraded the U.S. credit rating less than two wee'ks ago.
Europe's economy and debt problems have been among global investors' main concerns over the last year and a half. On Tuesday, the European Union reported that economic growth in the 17 countries that use the euro slowed to 0.2 percent between April and June from 0.8 percent in the previous quarter. Germany's growth fell to 0.1 percent from 1.3 percent.
That will make it even tougher for Spain and other countries to raise revenue. Some European countries have borrowed so much that they may need help repaying debt. The leaders of France and Germany, the eurozone's biggest economies, are meeting Tuesday in Paris to talk about the region's debt problems.
About 45 minutes ahead of the opening of trading, Dow Jones industrial average futures are down 99 points, or 0.9 percent, to 11,304. S&P 500 futures are down 15.30, or 1.3 percent, to 1,183.10. Nasdaq 100 futures are down 25.50, or 1.2 percent, to 2,181. Stock futures don't always accurately predict how markets will open.
Home Depot Inc., the country's largest home-improvement retailer, rose 2.4 percent after it said second-quarter net income rose 14 percent and raised its profit forecast.
Yet the housing market itself remains depressed, the Commerce Department reported today.
Homebuilders broke ground on new homes at an annual pace of 604,000 last month, Commerce said. That's down from 613,000 in June. In 2005, before the housing bubble burst, housing starts were typically above 2 million.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. rose 3.6 percent in premarket trading after it said net income rose 5.7 percent last quarter from a year ago on strong overseas sales. Earnings growth was stronger than analysts expected, and the world's largest retailer raised its profit forecast for the year.
A separate report on the U.S. economy showed that prices for imports rose 0.3 percent in July because costs rose for fuel and fertilizers. Prices for U.S. exports fell 0.4 percent, the first drop in a year.
Better news on the economy may come later this morning. Economists expect a report to show that industrial production rose in July for the second straight month. Manufacturing had been one of the strongest industries since the recession ended in 2009, but its growth has slowed this year.
Stocks have been particularly volatile since last week, after S&P chopped the U.S. from its top AAA credit rating to AA+ on Aug. 5. The Dow rose or fell by 400 points in the first four days of last week, the first time that has happened.
But the Dow rallied 213 points on Monday after a flurry of acquisitions, highlighted by Google's $12.5 billion purchase of Motorola Mobility. It marked the Dow's first three-day gain since July 1. Its rise of 763 points over the three days was the Dow's biggest since November 2008, during the depths of the financial crisis.