* US: Dow Futures: 13103.00 (-0.49%), S&P 500 Futures: 1396.20 (-0.56%), NASDAQ Futures: 2716.25 (-0.42%)
* Europe: CAC: 3528.71 (-1.39%), DAX: 7055.65 (-1.40%), FTSE: 5889.97 (-1.21%).
* Asia-Pacific: Australia: 4275.00 (-0.37%), China: 2376.84 (-1.40%), Hong Kong: 20888.24 (-1.09%), India: 5274.85 (0.34%), Japan: 10141.99 (0.12%).
* Metals: Gold: 1648.80 (-1.29%), Silver: 32.18 (-2.35%), Copper: 3.83 (-2.12%)
* Energy: Crude Oil: 107.12 (-0.90%), Natural Gas: 2.36 (0.30%)
* Commodities: Corn: 6.54 (-1.60%), Soya Bean: 13.53 (-0.69%), Wheat: 6.43 (-2.90%)
* Currency: EUR/USD: 1.3191 (-0.36%), GBP/USD: 1.5848 (-0.29%), USD/JPY: 83.6800 (0.40%)
* 10 year US Treasury: 2.341% (-0.038)
Market and Economic News Update
U.S. stock-index futures decline: Stock index futures pointed to a lower open on Tuesday following a weaker-than-expected housing starts report Ahead of the opening bell, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEXDJX:.DJI), S&P 500 (INDEXSP:.INX) and NASDAQ (INDEXNASDAQ:.IXIC) futures were all down close to 0.5 percent.
Housing starts fell in February: Commerce Department figures showed today housing starts in the U.S. fell in February from a three-year high. Housing starts slipped 1.1 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 698,000 units. However permits for future construction jumped 5.1 percent to a 717,000-unit pace last month, the highest level since October 2008.
European markets decline: Markets retreated for a second day as investors booked profits and awaited a report on house building in America. Stocks were seen consolidating after the recent rally and investors moved out of auto stocks into more defensive telecom. The benchmark Stoxx Europe 600 Index was down more than 1 percent.
U.K. inflation down to the lowest level in a year: Inflation in Britain was down in February to the lowest level in over a year; however the drop in the headline inflation rate was marginally less than what economists had forecast. The Office for National Statistics said today in London that consumer prices rose 3.4 percent from a year earlier, compared with 3.6 percent in January.
Asian markets end lower: Most of the Asian markets ended lower on Tuesday as China raised fuel prices, sparking concerns about a slowdown in growth in the world’s fastest-growing major economy. The Shanghai Composite Index was down more than a percent and the Hang Seng Index slipped 1.08 percent. Australian shares fell as miners expected a slowdown in iron-ore demand from China.
Company News Update
* Jefferies Group Inc. (NYSE:JEF) reported a decline in profit that was lower than analysts estimates.
* Upscale jewelry retailer, Tiffany & Co (NYSE:TIF) was up in morning trading after the company forecast higher sales for 2012. The luxury jeweler reported sales of $1.2 billion, which were inline with street expectations.
* Adobe Systems (NASDAQ:ADBE) slumped in pre-market trading after its profit forecast missed some estimates. The software maker said revenue growth was hampered as sales of its Creative Suite software slowed.
* Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) will be in focus today after it denied speculation relating to the introduction of additional equity in a secondary offering.
* Williams Companies (NYSE:WMB) gained 1.3 percent after it said that it expects to increase its dividend from $1.09 to $1.20 a share.
* Oracle (NASDAQ:ORCL) is slated to post earnings after the bell Tuesday.
* Auto-makers Daimler (FRA:DAI) and BMW (FRA:BMW) were among the worst performers in Europe after rumors surfaced that vehicle sales in China, the world’s second-largest economy, will be lower than expected.
* Metro AG (FRA:MEO), Germany’s largest retailer gained 1 percent after posting fourth- quarter earnings that matched analysts’ estimates.
* The world’s second-biggest consumer-products maker, Unilever NV (AMS:UNA), was down 1.5 percent after the stock was downgraded to “hold” from “buy” at Investec Plc.
* Debenhams Plc (LON:DEB), U.K.’s second-largest department-store company, was up 1.4 percent at one point, after the London-based retailer reported a healthy sales growth.
* Akzo Nobel NV (AMS:AKZA), the world’s biggest paintmaker, was cut to “underperform” from “neutral” at Bank of America Corp. The stock was down 2.6 percent.
* Deutsche Boerse (FRA:DB1), in a bid to recoup merger costs and keep the door open for future deals in the derivative markets, is planning to sue the European Commission for blocking its $9 billion merger with NYSE Euronext (NYSE:NYX).
* In a move to trim the size of its investment bank, Royal Bank of Scotland (LON:RBS) will shut down equity capital market and corporate finance units in South Korea and the cash equities businesses in Indonesia, Korea and Singapore.
* BHP Billiton (ASX:BHP), the world’s biggest mining company, said that Chinese demand for iron ore, a key steelmaking ingredient, appeared to be flattening.
* Sun Hung Kai Properties (HKG:0016) lost 2.4 percent in Hong Kong after Thomas Chan Kui-Yuen, an executive director responsible for land acquisitions and project planning at the company, was arrested by Hong Kong’s anti-graft body over suspected bribery.
* Hong Kong & China Gas Co Ltd (HKG:0003) increased 2 percent after reporting better than expected increase in 2011 net profit.
* The world’s biggest operator of dry-bulk ships, China Cosco Holdings Co. (HKG:1919), slumped 5.6 percent in Hong Kong trading after Morgan Stanley yesterday cut the transportation industry to “underweight”.
* China Telecom Corp. (HKG:0728), fell 2.9 percent after the country’s biggest fixed-line carrier reported fourth quarter profit that was lower than analysts’ estimates. * Chinese solar panel maker, LDK Solar (NYSE:LDK), citing lower-than-expected shipments of solar wafers, cells, and modules, has lowered the forecast for its previous fourth-quarter sales.
Economic Calendar for Tuesday, March 20, 2012:
07:45 A.M. ET: ICSC-Goldman Store Sales
08:30 A.M. ET: Housing Starts (MoM) (February)
08:30 A.M. ET: Building Permits (MoM) (February)
08:55 A.M. ET: Redbook
11:30 A.M. ET: 4-Week Bill Auction
12:45 P.M. ET: Ben Bernanke Speaks
05:30 P.M. ET: Minneapolis Federal Reserve President Naryana Kocherlakota speaks