Stocks headed for weak April start

@CNNMoneyInvest April 2, 2012: 8:52 AM ET
U.S. stocks were poised to open little changed Monday, the first trading day of April, as investors look for reasons to sustain the recent rally.

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NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- U.S. stocks were poised to open little changed Monday, the first trading day of April, as investors look for reasons to sustain the recent rally.

The Dow Jones industrial average (INDU), S&P 500 (SPX) and Nasdaq (COMP) futures were essentially flat ahead of the opening bell Monday morning. Stock futures indicate the possible direction of the markets when they open at 9:30 a.m. ET.

Investors are awaiting reports on manufacturing and construction spending, hoping for a bit of positive news following a string of underwhelming reports last week. The all-important March jobs report is due Friday, although the U.S. stock market will be closed in observance of Good Friday.

Despite weak recent reports on housing and durable goods, stocks have largely been on a tear, with the Dow and S&P 500 ending their best first quarter in over a decade last week. The Nasdaq had its best first quarter since 1991.

The gains have been driven by generally improving economic data in the United States and easing concerns about the debt crisis in Europe. Stocks have also been supported by expectations that the Federal Reserve will continue to support the economy.

"Looks like a little softer start to the week, but I don't think anyone could anticipate the kind of lift we had during the first three months of the year," said Mark Luschini, chief investment strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott.

If history is any guide, though, April will be another strong month.

The S&P 500 has risen every April for the past five years, according to Schaeffer's Investment Research. The index has returned an average of 4.5% in April over the same period, making it the best month for the market by far.

Over the weekend, investors got a mixed view of China's crucial manufacturing sector. Worries about a slowdown in China have tempered investor enthusiasm lately.

U.S. stocks closed mixed Friday, as investors weighed a report on consumer spending and a boost to the eurozone bailout fund.

Economy: The March installment of the ISM Manufacturing Index is expected to come in at 53, up from 52.4 in the month prior, according to a survey of analysts by Briefing.com.

February construction spending is expected to have increased by 0.5%.

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Companies: Shares of cosmetics maker Avon Products (AVP, Fortune 500) jumped more than 18% in pre-market trading after competitor Coty announced that it had offered to acquire Avon for roughly $10 billion in cash.

Coty said in a statement that it had made "extensive but unsuccessful attempts to engage Avon in discussions regarding its proposal," and therefore decided to make the offer public in order to inform Avon shareholders. Coty added that it has no intention of pursuing a hostile takeover.

Shares of Lions Gate Entertainment (LGF) rose 1.6% in premarket trading Monday after another strong weekend for the studio's latest blockbuster, Hunger Games. The film reportedly raked in more than $95 million over the weekend.

Credit card processor Global Payments (GPN) plunged 9% Friday on news that the company had fallen victim to a data breach, potentially compromising credit and debit card information from all of the major card brands, including Visa (V, Fortune 500) and MasterCard (MA, Fortune 500).

Shares of daily deals site Groupon (GRPN) were down more than 10% ahead of Monday's open after the company announced Friday that it was revising its fourth-quarter income and sales lower due to a higher rate of customers seeking refunds.

Groupon also said its auditor had discovered a deficiency in the site's financial statement close process, which covers the steps companies go through at the end of each quarter to ensure that all of their financial transactions have been accurately recorded and reported.

World markets: European stocks were down slightly in mid-day trading. Britain's FTSE 100 (UKX) slipped by 0.10%, the DAX (DAX) in Germany dropped by 0.22% and France's CAC 40 (CAC40) lost 0.56%.

Asian markets finished little changed. The Hang Seng (HSI) in Hong Kong slipped 0.16% and Japan's Nikkei (N225) ended up 0.26%. The Shanghai Composite (SHCOMP) was closed for a holiday.

Currencies and commodities: The dollar fell slightly against the British pound and the Japanese yen but gained slightly against the euro.

Oil for May delivery dropped by 44 cents to $102.58 a barrel.

Gold futures for April delivery fell $0.90 to $1668.40 an ounce.

Bonds: The price on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury rose, pushing the yield down to 2.21%.  To top of page

Index Last Change % Change
Dow 17,001.22 -38.27 -0.22%
Nasdaq 4,538.55 6.45 0.14%
S&P 500 1,988.40 -3.97 -0.20%
Treasuries 2.40 -0.00 -0.17%
Data as of 4:33pm ET
Company Price Change % Change
Bank of America Corp... 16.13 -0.03 -0.19%
Apple Inc 101.32 0.74 0.74%
Salesforce.com Inc 59.80 4.09 7.34%
General Electric Co 26.15 -0.28 -1.06%
Cisco Systems Inc 24.65 -0.24 -0.96%
Data as of Aug 22
Overnight Avg Rate Latest Change Last Week
30 yr fixed4.28%4.28%
15 yr fixed3.26%3.17%
5/1 ARM3.43%3.51%
30 yr refi4.21%4.17%
15 yr refi3.18%3.10%
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