Credit fears weigh on Wall Street

Futures decline amid concerns over collapse of Clear Channel deal; durable goods, home sales reports on deck.

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NEW YORK( -- U.S. stock futures fell early Wednesday after talk of the collapse of the $19 billion sale of radio broadcaster Clear Channels spurred a new round of credit fears.

Less than three hours before the open, Nasdaq and S&P futures were lower and pointing to a negative start for Wall Street.

Banks are unwilling to provide financing for Clear Channel's (CCU, Fortune 500) sale to private-equity firms, according to published reports.

If the deal collapses, it would be the latest in a string of buyouts to fall victim to the tightening credit markets.

Investors have been on edge amid concerns about a deep recession in the U.S. Stocks finished Tuesday's session mixed after readings on housing and consumer confidence came in weak.

On the economic front, a report on durable goods orders is due before the market open. Economists surveyed by are forecasting orders for large-ticket items by businesses and consumers managed a 0.8% gain in February after falling more than 5% the previous month.

A reading on new home sales comes later at 10 a.m. ET, with economists forecasting a drop in sales to a 13-year low.

At 10:30 a.m. ET comes the government report on U.S. fuel inventories. Oil prices rose ahead of the report, with a barrel of light, sweet crude adding $1.07 to $102.29 a barrel in early electronic trading.

Among companies to watch, Citigroup (C, Fortune 500) could come under pressure after influential banking analyst Meredith Whitney of Oppenheimer & Co. significantly raised her first-quarter loss estimate for the company. She also cut earnings forecasts at the nation's other major banks. Shares of Dow component Citigroup lost 1.7% in early Frankfurt trading.

JPMorgan Chase (JPM, Fortune 500) said late Tuesday it is offering bonuses to the top brokers at Bear Stearns (BSC, Fortune 500) to get them to stay with the company after it is acquired. Those who earned at least $500,000 in commissions and fees can get a bonus matching their annual output, a person familiar with the plans told Associated Press.

Cable giants Comcast (CMCSA) and Time Warner Cable (TWC) are discussing a plan to fund a new wireless Internet venture that would be run by Sprint Nextel (S, Fortune 500) and Clearwire (CLWR), the Wall Street Journal reported.

In global trade, shares in Asia closed mixed, with indexes in Tokyo and Shanghai losing ground while those in Hong Kong and Seoul gained. European markets were narrowly lower in early trading. To top of page

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