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Futures Lower on Eurogroup Meeting, China Trade Gap

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U.S. stock futures are modestly lower heading into today's session. With little in the way of economic and earnings reports on the domestic front, traders have turned their attention overseas, where euro-zone finance leaders will meet today to discuss the final approval on Greece's next tranche of bailout aid. News out of China has the Street a bit on edge, with the country's massive $31.48-billion trade deficit prompting a new round of growth concerns. Against this backdrop, all three major market indexes are trading just south of breakeven.

In equities news, PepsiCo Inc. (PEP - 63.15) tapped Brian Cornell to be CEO of its America Foods division, while current CEO John Compton will shift to the newly created position of President of PepsiCo. Cornell had previously worked in general management positions for the company, but more recently held the reins as president and CEO of Sam's Club. The move is effective immediately. PEP is up 1% ahead of the bell.

In earnings news, FuelCell Energy Inc. (FCEL - 1.50) swallowed a slimmer fiscal first-quarter loss of $6.7 million, or 5 cents per share, versus its year-ago loss of $11.7 million, or 10 cents per share. Revenue, meanwhile, rose 12% to $31.3 million, compared to last year's sales of $28.1 million. The results were mixed, as analysts, on average, were calling for a wider loss of 6 cents per share on $32.7 million in revenue. FCEL is up 9% in pre-market trading.

Silver Standard Resources (SSRI - 15.50) banked a fourth-quarter profit of $2.58 million, or 3 cents per share, down sharply from its year-ago earnings of $361.6 million, or $4.56 per share. Analysts, by contrast, were looking for a loss of 6 cents per share. During the quarter, SSRI's Pirquitas mine operations lost $3.3 million, as the cost of sales outstripped revenue.

Earnings Preview

Today's earnings docket will also feature reports from Amerigon ( ARGN ), Cadence Pharmaceuticals ( CADX ), Cumulus Media ( CMLS ), Clean Energy Fuels ( CLNE ), Pulse Electronics ( PULS ), Resolute Energy (REN), SRS Labs (SRSL), Synergetics (SURG), Urban Outfitters (URBN), Vaalco Energy (EGY). Keep your browser at SchaeffersResearch.com for more news as it breaks.

Economic Calendar

The week kicks off with the Treasury Department's monthly federal budget report. Tuesday features the latest data on retail sales and business inventories, but the day's major news will likely be the Federal Open Market Committee's (FOMC) policy decision, due out at 2:15 p.m. Eastern. On Wednesday, the MBA mortgage index will hit the Street, along with import and export prices, and the regularly scheduled crude inventories report. Thursday's round-up will include weekly jobless claims, the Empire State manufacturing index, the Philadelphia Fed's manufacturing index, and the producer price index (PPI). The week wraps up on Friday with the consumer price index (CPI), industrial production and capacity utilization, and the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment index for mid-March.

Market Statistics

Equity option activity on the Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE) saw 1,121,808 call contracts traded on Friday, compared to 705,801 put contracts. The resultant single-session put/call ratio arrived at 0.63, while the 21-day moving average was 0.64.

Overseas Trading

Stocks in Asia ended mostly lower today, after Beijing unveiled a surprisingly steep trade deficit for February. The data revived concerns about waning demand from Europe and other key trade partners, effectively overshadowing Friday's well-received U.S. jobs data. However, a softening yen helped keep losses to a minimum in Tokyo, while China Mobile led the gainers in Hong Kong after bullish notes from Credit Suisse and HSBC. By the close, South Korea's Kospi fell 0.8%, Japan's Nikkei lost 0.4%, China's Shanghai Composite shed 0.2%, and Hong Kong's Hang Seng advanced 0.2%.

European markets are similarly mixed at midday. Traders were jarred by China's unexpectedly wide trade gap, as well as data showing that Italy's gross domestic product (GDP) fell by 0.7% during the fourth quarter. Miners and resource stocks are pacing the laggards, but banks have emerged as a pocket of strength. At last check, the German DAX is up 0.1%, while London's FTSE 100 and France's CAC 40 are each 0.2% lower.

Currencies and Commodities

The U.S. dollar index is up 0.05% this morning to trade at $80. Crude oil, on the other hand, is on track to pare some of last week's gain , with the front-month contract down 1% at $106.84 per barrel. Gold futures are headed south, as well, with the malleable metal last seen 0.4% lower at $1,704.60 an ounce.

Unusual Put and Call Activity:

For an explanation of how to use this information, check out our Education Center topics on Option Volume and Open Interest Configurations .

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

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