Wall Street set for lower open

2011-02-22 16:34

New York - Us stocks were set for a sharply lower open on Tuesday as a revolt in Libya drove investors away from riskier assets and prompted a spike in crude oil prices.

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi used tanks, helicopters and warplanes to quell a growing revolt as the veteran leader scoffed at reports he was fleeing after four decades in power.

Libya’s oil terminals were blocked and the prospect of further disruptions to oil supplies from Libya, Africa’s third-largest producer, sent oil prices to a 2-1/2 year high.

“The anxiety (over the unrest in Libya) is driving up oil prices and creating concerns about inflation as well. The domino effect is also making investors come out of the equities market,” said Andre Bakhos, director of market analytics at Lek Securities in New York.

S&P 500 futures fell 15.6 points and were below fair value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the contract. Dow Jones industrial average futures slid 74 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures tumbled 33.75 points.

Shares of Wal-Mart Stores Inc were off 2.2% to $54.14 in premarket trade after the world’s largest retailer posted its seventh straight drop in US sales.

Elsewhere in the Middle East, two Iranian naval ships entered the Suez Canal, a canal official said, heading toward the Mediterranean, a move certain to anger Israel.

Home Depot Inc, the world’s largest home improvement chain, reported higher-than-expected quarterly profit as shoppers began long-delayed home projects in a slowly recovering US economy. The stock rose 3.7% to $39.80 premarket.

US single-family home prices fell for the sixth month in a row in December, in line with expectations, according to a closely watched private survey.

US consumer confidence data for February is set for 10 a.m. EST (1500 GMT). Economists look for a reading of 65.0, compared with 65.6 previously, according to a Reuters survey.

US markets were closed on Monday for the US Presidents Day holiday, but on Friday stocks pushed higher for a third week despite growing signals of an overheating market.