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Wondering about oil
Concerns about inventory to keep stocks under wraps at Wednesday's open.
November 2, 2005: 7:33 AM EST

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Stock investors will be looking for directions ahead the weekly inventory an hour after the market open Wednesday.

U.S. stock futures were slightly lower, and comparisons to fair value suggest a flat to mixed opening for stocks, ahead of the 10:30 a.m. ET report on U.S. fuel inventories. Oil prices were slightly lower ahead of the reading, staying below the $60 benchmark.

Art Hogan, chief market analyst at Jefferies & Co., said he's concerned that the warm weather in the Northeast since the weekend has helped drive down oil prices more than might be justified by the inventory number, and weaker-than-expected supplies of fuel could hit the stocks Wednesday.

"The expectations are for inventories to come in better because we haven't donned our ski parkas yet. But it's not just weather in the Northeast that matters," he said. "That's going to be one of pivotal points of the day with the inventory report."

The December light crude futures contract for NYMEX lost 21 cents to $59.64 a barrel in electronic trading, while the December contract for Brent crude fell 30 cents to $58.07.

Hogan said that he believes investors are concerned by the general flow of earnings reports that shows strong third-quarter profits and sales but weaker than hoped outlook for the fourth quarter.

"I think that you take everything on whole, more bad news than good news," he said.

No. 1 media conglomerate Time Warner (Research) announced both an increase in its share repurchase target to $12.5 billion from the $5 billion goal that had been previously announced, along with better than expected third quarter sales and earnings. The company also reaffirmed full-year guidance.

But the repurchase plan still falls short of the $20 billion target urged by financier Carl Icahn, who leads a group of investors with a 2.6 percent stake in Time Warner. CNN/Money is a unit of Time Warner.

Major markets in Asia closed mostly higher Monday, after the dollar rallied following the Federal Reserve meeting Tuesday. Major European markets also were higher in early trading.

Treasury prices were lower, lifting the yield on the 10-year note to 4.59 percent from the 4.56 percent level late Tuesday following the Fed meeting. The dollar gained ground against on the euro and the yen.

In other corporate news, Dow component Boeing (Research) was hit by another machinist strike early Wednesday, this one by about 1,500 workers in its Delta rocket program. Its commercial aircraft workers were on a four-week strike in September.

Cable operator Cablevision Systems (Research) announced its board has authorized management to take steps to implement a $3 billion special dividend. The move comes following an unsuccessful attempt to take the company's cable operations private and spin off its cable networks and other entertainment assets in a $7.9 billion deal.

For a more detailed look at the markets before the open, click here.  Top of page

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