Stocks set to plunge at open

Lower-than-expected retail sales push futures lower; EU slaps Intel with record fine; Seagate announces job reductions.

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By staff

NEW YORK( -- U.S. stocks were set to plunge at the open Wednesday following a worse-than-expected retail sales reading and after leading chipmaker Intel was assessed a record antitrust fine in Europe.

At 9 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones industrial average, S&P 500 and Nasdaq-100 futures were lower, with declines steepening after the retail sales report.

Futures measure current index values against perceived future performance and offer an indication of how markets may open when trading begins in New York.

Trading on Wall Street was choppy Tuesday amid investor caution. The Dow ended the session higher while the Nasdaq faltered.

The biggest potential threat to Wednesday trading, said Manus Cranny, market analyst at MF Global in London, was the data on retail sales.

"Retail has been clobbered; it's not coming back," said Cranny, ahead of the retail sales report.

He said that investors who are pinning their hopes on a retail recovery are "sorely deluded."

Retail: Retail sales in April fell 0.4%, according to the U.S. Commerce Department. Excluding auto sales, retail sales dropped 0.5%.

April sales were expected to be flat, according to a consensus of economist opinion compiled by The March figure was revised to show a sales decline of 1.3%.

Intel: Intel (INTC, Fortune 500) was fined a record $1.45 billion by the European Union for allegedly violating antitrust laws. The chipmaker said it will appeal the decision.

Late Tuesday, Intel CEO Paul Otellini told investors that second-quarter orders have been better than expected.

AIG: At 10 a.m. ET, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold a hearing at which AIG's (AIG, Fortune 500) chief executive will outline the insurer's plan for paying back billions of taxpayer dollars.

Seagate: Hard drive manufacturer Seagate Technology (STX) said it would reduce its staff by 1,100 jobs, or 2.5%, as part of its ongoing effort to return to profitability.

Executive pay: The Obama administration reportedly is considering a major revamp of executive pay practices at financial firms that would apply to companies that haven't received government bailout funds.

The Wall Street Journal and New York Times both said the administration has begun serious talks about the matter.

Freddie Mac: After U.S. markets closed Tuesday, Freddie Mac (FRE, Fortune 500) posted a $9.9 billion quarterly loss and asked the government for another $6.1 billion in aid.

World markets: In Asia, shares mostly edged lower. Japan's Nikkei, however, managed a slight gain. European markets were narrowly higher in morning trading.

Currencies and commodities: The dollar rose versus the euro and the British pound, but fell against the yen. The price of oil fell 22 cents a barrel to $58.63. To top of page

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