Blame it on Athens

February 20, 2015 08:42 AM

U.S. stock-index futures fell, after equities fluctuated all week near a record, as creditors raised the pressure on Greece amid efforts to reach a debt agreement.

Contracts on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index expiring in March fell 0.2% to 2,091.1 at 9:02 a.m. in New York. The underlying gauge was little changed on Thursday as gains in Internet stocks offset a drop in Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

Nasdaq 100 Index futures lost less than 0.1 percent, after a seven-day rally for the equities gauge brought it within 6.6 percent of an all-time high reached during the dot-com era in 2000. Contracts on the Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 29 points, or 0.2 percent, to 17,930.

“We’ve been very range-bound this week,” Kully Samra, who manages U.K. clients for Charles Schwab Corp. in London, said by phone. “Markets are still looking to see what happens in Europe regarding Greece, U.S. economic data has been weaker than expected, while oil prices have stabilized and calmed investors down a little. We still believe we’re in a bull market, but there is a heightened chance of a correction.”

Germany and its allies are ready to let Greece leave the euro unless Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras accepts the conditions required to extend his country’s financial support, according to Malta’s finance minister, Edward Scicluna.

Greece’s creditors are cranking up the pressure on Tsipras as he seeks a deal to prevent his country defaulting on its obligations as early as next month. By bowing to German demands, the premier risks a domestic backlash from voters and party members whom he’s promised an end to austerity.

The S&P 500 is little changed in a holiday-shortened week and 0.1 percent away from a record reached Feb. 17. It has gained 1.9 percent this year, trailing all but two of the 24 developed markets tracked by Bloomberg.


Profit Forecasts

Analysts have cut profit forecasts for S&P 500 members amid a rout in oil prices and a rising dollar. They predict earnings will drop this quarter, compared with December projections for an increase. Of the 87% of S&P 500 companies that have reported earnings this season, 74 beat projections and 56 percent surpassed sales estimates.

Fannie Mae fell 2.9 percent after reporting a sharp profit decline in the fourth quarter due largely to accounting treatment for billions of dollars in tax credits. Investments in derivatives were primarily responsible for about $2.5 billion of losses in the quarter and $4.8 billion for the full year.

Ann Inc. rose 8.3% as the owner of the Ann Taylor and Loft women’s clothing stores is exploring a sale and has reached out to potential buyers in recent weeks, including rival retailers, people with knowledge of the matter said.

U.S. manufacturing expanded at a slower pace in February, economists projected before preliminary data from Markit Economics at 9:45 a.m. New York time. Reports on home sales, durable goods orders and consumer confidence are due next week.

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