Stocks headed for weak open

By staff

NEW YORK( -- U.S. stocks were poised to slide at the start of trading Monday as investors remained concerned about the state of the overall economy.

Dow Jones industrial average (INDU), S&P 500 (SPX) and Nasdaq (COMP) futures were lower ahead of the opening bell. Futures measure current index values against perceived future performance.

Stocks have been rising recently on speculation that the Fed will announce plans to resume large-scale purchases of U.S. Treasurys, a policy called quantitative easing, when it meets next month.

Investors might have gotten ahead of themselves last week, said Jeff Saut, chief investment strategist with Raymond James. So there's a little bit of a pullback driving futures lower, he said.

There are still cracks in the economy, as big banks have come under fire for foreclosure practices from state and federal regulators. That's caused financial stocks to falter in the past week.

But Saut expects to see the broader market resume its upward push this week, amid expectations of continued strong earnings reports. Seven Dow stocks are scheduled to release third-quarter results, as are several of the big banks and tech companies.

"Last year's third quarter was pretty lousy, so comparisons on a year-over-year basis are going to look pretty good," Saut said.

So far third-quarter results have generally come in above expectations. Of the S&P 500 companies that have posted results, 83% have topped analyst estimates, according to Thomson Reuters. But it's still early in the reporting period.

Companies: Citigroup (C, Fortune 500) posted a third-quarter profit of $2.2 billion, beating analyst forecasts as the bank reduced its credit losses to their lowest level since 2007. Shares of Citigroup rose about 2% in premarket trading.

Apple (AAPL, Fortune 500) and IBM (IBM, Fortune 500) are scheduled to post their quarterly earnings after the closing bell.

Stocks to watch also included BP (BP), which said Monday it is selling its businesses in Venezuela and Vietnam to Russian oil producer TNK-BP for $1.8 billion. The stock was up 0.3% in premarket trading.

New England utility companies Northeast Utilities (NU, Fortune 500) and NSTAR (NST) announced that they have agreed to merge, creating one of the nation's largest utility companies. The company will continue to be called Northeast Utilities after Northeast buys Nstar for $4.3 billion in stock.

Shares of Northeast Utilities rose 0.9% and shares of NStar rose 1.1% in premarket trading.

Medical device company St. Jude Medical (STJ, Fortune 500) will acquire AGA Medical Holdings (AGAM) for $20.80 per share in a cash-and-stock transaction valued at a total of $1.3 billion. Shares of St. Jude Medical rose 0.5% and shares of AGA Medical Holdings fell 1.3% in premarket trading.

Economy: Investors will take in reports on industrial production and capacity utilization for September, and the National Association of Homebuilders' housing market index.

World markets: European stocks were slightly up in midday trading. Britain's FTSE 100 inched up 0.1% and Germany's DAX rose 0.3%. The CAC 40 in France was flat.

Asian markets finished in negative territory. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong tumbled 1.2%. The Shanghai Composite fell 0.5%, and the Nikkei in Japan ended a shade lower.

Commodities and Currencies: The dollar rose against the British pound and euro, but fell versus the Japanese yen.

Gold futures for December delivery sank $9.30 to $1,362.70 an ounce.

The price of oil fell 21 cents to $81.04 per barrel, after slipping below $81 a barrel earlier.

Bonds: The price rose on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury, pushing the yield down to 2.55%.  To top of page

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