March 20, 2012 / 8:58 AM / in 6 years

U.S. stock index futures point to lower open

* U.S. stock markets pointed to a lower open on Wall Street on Tuesday, with futures for the S&P 500 down 0.3 percent, while Dow Jones and Nasdaq 100 futures were each off 0.2 percent at 0848 GMT.

* Diary highlights include February housing starts data at 1230 GMT, a testimony on the international financial system by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner at 1400 GMT and a lecture by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke at 1645 GMT.

* Earnings calendar features results from contract manufacturer Jabil Circuit, the world’s third-largest software maker Oracle, computer contractor SAIC and jeweler Tiffany.

* A much-anticipated budget plan due from Republicans in the House of Representatives includes sweeping tax reforms that cut rates and pare down individual income tax brackets to two from six.

* World equity markets painted a mixed picture, with Japan’s Nikkei average rising for a fifth session, while concerns about global growth and gloomy corporate news knocked 0.7 percent off the pan-European FTSE Eurofirst 300.

* On Monday, the S&P 500 extended its rally to climb within 10 percent of its record closing high set in October 2007, after Apple said it would pay a $10 billion annual dividend and buy back stock. The benchmark index closed up 0.4 percent at 1,409.75 points.

* Monday saw busy after the bell trading following a clutch of corporate news releases:

* Fashion company Michael Kors reported strong retail sales and raised its earnings outlook, sending its shares up 3 percent.

* Bank of America shares rose 1.8 percent after it said it has no intention of issuing additional equity in a secondary offering, contrary to rumors that may have lowered its stock price during afternoon trading.

* Walt Disney shares fell 1 percent after said it expects mega-budget science-fiction movie “John Carter” will lose about $200 million in the current quarter.

* Adobe Systems shares dipped 4.4 percent following news revenue growth slowed as sales of its widely used Creative Suite software fell, missing its forecasts.

* BHP Billiton , the world’s biggest miner, said it was seeing signs of “flattening” iron ore demand from China, reigniting concerns about global growth.

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