Day Ahead: Futures in Play

 | Mar 18, 2014 | 8:47 AM EDT
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U.S. stock futures showed signs of optimism as Wall Street digested housing and inflation data Tuesday morning, following European markets higher as Russia made preliminary moves to annex Crimea.

The U.S. Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose 0.1% in February, as expected, with a 0.1% rise in core prices, which were also in line. Both figures represent no change from January's price inflation. Housing starts fell by 0.2% in February to 907,000 units on an annualized basis, just below views, vs. 909,000 units in the prior month.

Stocks rebounded Monday from last week's selloff, with all three major indices putting in their best showings in two weeks. But European exchanges were lagging early on disappointing consumer-confidence data from Germany before they turned higher as Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia and Crimea had signed an annexation treaty. Asian markets rallied overnight.

Meanwhile, the Federal Open Market Committee begins its two-day policy meeting today, capped off by its interest-rate announcement and presser from newly minted Chairwoman Janet Yellen Wednesday afternoon. Wall Street will be listening for details of the central bank's tapering plans and any comments on the economy.

It's a light day for earnings reports, with one standout being Hertz Global (HTZ), which reported disappointing fourth-quarter earnings before the bell. But the rental-car company's shares were up slightly as it confirmed it will spin off its equipment-rental business. Adobe Systems (ADBE), Oracle (ORCL) and Pacific Sunwear (PSUN) are due to report after the close. Investors will be listening for any lingering effects on results from this winter's severe weather.

In company news, GameStop (GME) shares were zapped in premarket trading on news that the world's largest retailer, Wal-Mart (WMT), plans to offer gift cards in exchange for used videogames, which Wal-Mart will refurbish and sell, potentially cutting into GameStop's customer base.

American Express (AXP) said it is selling half its business-travel division for $900 million, creating a joint venture with a group led by Certares International Bank.

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