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Eyes -- and ears -- on oil
Futures signal sluggish start for stocks as investors await Senate hearing, inventory report.
November 9, 2005: 8:08 AM EST

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Eyes will be on energy Wednesday as oil company CEOs appear before a Senate hearing into high oil prices and record profits.

The government's weekly report on inventories of oil and gasoline could also move oil prices, as well as stocks. Analysts polled by Reuters forecast that supplies of heating oil and gasoline grew last week for the first time in seven weeks as recent warm weather has cut demand.

Stock futures were little changed, pointing to a flat start for Wall Street.

Crude oil futures fell slightly in electronic trading ahead of the inventory report. The December light crude futures contract slid 28 cents to $59.43 a barrel in electronic trading, near three-month lows. In London, the December contract for Brent crude fell 36 cents to $57.45.

Strong oil industry profits due to recent record highs for oil and gasoline have prompted criticism by Democrats and even some Republican friends of big oil in Congress. Some elected officials have called for a windfall profit tax and anti-gouging actions against oil companies.

Investors may also weigh Tuesday's off-year election results, which handed defeats to Republicans in Virginia, New Jersey and California, and could make Republicans in Congress nervous a year ahead of mid-term elections.

Major markets in Asia closed higher Monday. Major European markets were mixed in early trading.

Bond prices were little changed in early trading, leaving the yield on the 10-year treasury at the 4.56 percent level reached late Tuesday.

The dollar barely budged versus the euro and the Japanese yen, a day after hitting a two-year high against the European currency. (Full story).

In corporate news, embattled insurer American International Group (Research) restated earnings again late Tuesday. Shares of the Dow component lost about a half percent in after-hours trading on the news.

The Wall Street Journal, citing an internal memo, reported that Microsoft (Research) chairman Bill Gates has endorsed a radical reshaping of how his company develops software and services as he outlined challenges facing the company. Shares of Microsoft fell in before-hours trading following the report.

Shares of Hansen Natural (Research) jumped over 13 percent in before-market trading after the maker of alternative sodas, fruit juice, smoothies and iced tea said third-quarter profit more than tripled, lifted by strong sales of its Monster Energy drinks and improved margins.

Pixar Animation Studios (Research) reported stronger than expected profits which lifted its shares 10 percent in after-hours trading Tuesday.

Company chairman Steve Jobs did not give investors the hoped-for update about its upcoming film plans or talks with Walt Disney Co. (Research) about a possible extension of the companies' film distribution agreement.

Cisco Systems (Research), the No. 1 maker of Internet equipment, is due to report earnings after the bell Wednesday. Analysts surveyed by earnings tracker First Call forecast double-digit growth in earnings and revenue.

On the economic front, wholesale inventories for September are due shortly after the stock market opens. Economists are forecasting a 0.3 percent increase after August's 0.5 percent gain, according to

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

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