Stocks Lower Ahead of Monday Open; Apple Dominating Attention Before Bell

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Stocks are pointing toward a lower open this morning, with many traders appearing ready to take more profits off the table today following several day's of gains last week that lifted market indices to multi-year highs.

There's a relatively light economic schedule today, with only the National Association of Homebuilders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index for March due out at 10 a.m. Last month, the seasonally adjusted index rose for the fifth consecutative month from 25 to 29, its highest level in more than four years. Builders are asked to rate their current perceptions of single-family home sales and customer traffic as well as their expectations for the next six months. Figures over 50 indicate more builders view conditions as good rather than poor.

Economists polled by MarketWatch see the NAHB/Wells Fargo index will be unchanged at 29. Later this week, new data on housing starts during February will be released tomorrow, followed by existing home sales on Wednesday. New-home sales figures are due out on Friday.

In company news, Apple Inc. ( AAPL ) is 3.6% higher this morning after scheduling a special call "to announce the outcome of the company's discussions concerning its cash balance." The company's cash, short-term equivalents and long-term investments were worth nearly $100 billion at the end of 2011 and many investors have been expecting it to soon start a dividend or share buyback program. Today's call will be hosted by CEO Tim Cook and financial chief Peter Oppenheimer starting at 9 a.m. ET. In a statement released last night announcing the call, AAPL said it won't be providing an update "on the current quarter nor will any topics be discussed other than cash."

Also, QR Energy ( QRE ) this morning announced plans to buying oil properties in Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas and Michigan for $230 million. The oil fields contain an estimated 13 million barrels of oil equivalent and 150 producing wells and the Houston-based energy firm said it expects the deal will add to its distributable cash flow. The deal is slated to close in April.

Commodities are nearly mixed with March gold down $1.10 to $1,654.40 an ounce. May copper is notably higher, gaining 10.5 cents at $3.8890 a pound. Crude oil for April delivery is up 24 cents at $107.30 a barrel.

U.S. PRE-MARKET INDICATORS

-Dow Jones Industrials down 0.12% at 13.147.00

-S&P 500 futures down 0.14% at 1,396.50

-Nasdaq 100 futures down 0.10% at 2,713.06

-Nasdaq-100 Pre-Market Indicator up 0.42% at 2,724.22

GLOBAL SENTIMENT

Nikkei 225 up 0.12%

Hang Seng down 0.95%

Shanghai Composite up 0.23%

FTSE-100 down 0.33%

DAX-30 down 0.54%

PRE-MARKET SECTOR WATCH

(+/-) Large cap tech: mixed

(+/-) Chip stocks: mixed

(-) Software stocks: lower

(+) Hardware stocks: higher

(-) Internet stocks: lower

(-) Drug stocks: lower

(-) Financial stocks: lower

(+/-) Retail stocks: flat

(-) Industrial stocks: lower

(-) Airlines: lower

(-) Autos: lower

UPSIDE MOVERS

(+) UPS, (+%) Raises bids to acquire TNT Express, offers $6.8 billion.

(+) RIMM, (+%) Speculation continued through weekend Samsung is ready to purchase minority stake.

DOWNSIDE MOVERS

(-) ORCL, (%) Reports Q3 earnings after market close tomorrow.

(-) EBAY, (%) Citigroup downgrades to Neutral based on valuation, noting stock now close to $39 price target.



The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The NASDAQ OMX Group, Inc.

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This article appears in: Investing , Commodities

Referenced Stocks: AAPL , QRE

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