Options Trading News

March 21, 2013  Thu 7:13 AM CT

Stocks are trying to hold their ground today despite declines in Europe.

S&P 500 futures are down about 0.2 percent, while most indexes across the Atlantic are lower by more than 0.5 percent. The Nasdaq 100 is the biggest laggard in the United States this morning after a bad earnings report from tech giant Oracle. Asian markets were mostly higher overnight, following yesterday's gains.

Europe is in focus once again as German and French purchasing managers indexes were weaker than expected. The European Central Bank is also threatening to cut off aid for Cypriot banks on Monday if the island nation fails to reach a bank-bailout deal.

If the current weakness persists, it would mark a lower high for the S&P 500 and suggest that a period of consolidation is at hand. The index is barely 1 percent below its record levels from 2007, which could also make some investors expect a pause--especially given the potential risks in Europe.

The economic calendar now focuses on weekly jobless claims in the U.S. at 8:30 a.m. ET, which are expected to show an increase to 345,000 from 332,000 last week. The Philadelphia Federal Reserve will also release its regional economic-activity index at 10 a.m. ET, while the National Association of Realtors will report existing-home sales at the same time.

Foreign-exchange trading is mostly bearish, with the euro is lower against the U.S. dollar and the Japanese yen. However, the Australian and Canadian currencies, which tend to move in tandem with risk appetite, are higher.

Oil is mostly lower, but copper and precious metals are posting small gains. Agricultural foodstuffs are mixed.

In company-specific news, Oracle stunned investors by missing estimates on the top and bottom lines. Management attempted to blame its sales force, but analysts said the software giant is losing customers to cloud-based providers. ORCL dropped almost 8 percent on the news.

Apparel stock Guess is also down 7 percent after forecasting first-quarter profit well below consensus estimates.
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