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18/10/2010

Futures dip ahead of earnings

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The stock index futures slipped on Monday ahead of a busy day for corporate earnings as the U.S. dollar bounced from a 10-month low against a basket of currencies.

All eyes were on earnings reports, including ones from International Business Machines Corp (IBM.N), Citigroup Inc (C.N) and Apple Inc (AAPL.O).

Investors will stay focused on financial shares on worries over the potential exposure of major banks to foreclosure losses. Concerns over the effects of a major probe into foreclosure practices dragged the sector lower last week.

"Banks have been reluctant to comment too much on this, and certainly an earnings report would be a good time to address it," said Rick Meckler, president of investment firm LibertyView Capital Management in New York. "Citi statements will be extrapolated to Bank of America and others in a similar position."

The U.S. dollar index (.DXY) rose 0.4 percent as investors trimmed bearish bets against the greenback on uncertainties over how much money the U.S. Federal Reserve will print in its latest effort to boost the economic recovery.

Two top Fed officials argued over the weekend for further aggressive action by the central bank, with one saying the economy needs "much more" help and the other pointing to Japan's painful lessons.

S&P 500 futures dipped 4.1 points and were slightly 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 fell 44 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures shed 4 points.

European stocks, weighed early Monday by mining shares, turned positive, lifted by banks. Oil fell toward one-week lows as gains in the greenback prompted investors to halt their charge into commodities.

The Fed is to release industrial production and capacity utilization data for September at 9:15 a.m. EDT (1315 GMT), and the National Association of Home Builders issues its October housing market index at 10 a.m. EDT (1400 GMT)

Economists in a Reuters survey expect a 0.2 percent rise in production and a reading of 74.8 percent for capacity utilization. In August, production was up 0.2 percent and capacity utilization was 74.7 percent. A reading of 14 is expected on the NAHB index, up from 13 in September.

BHP Billiton (BHP.AX) and Rio Tinto (RIO.AX) ditched plans for a big iron-ore joint venture in what's seen as a victory for steelmakers, and could prompt both companies to step up competing expansion plans.

Ford Motor Co (F.N) and Mazda Motor Corp (7261.T) look set to drift further apart as the U.S. carmaker plans to wind down its stake in the Japanese firm. That would make it easier for Mazda to make decisions, but it may need a new partner down the line.

Northeast Utilities (NU.N) will buy peer NSTAR (NST.N) in a $4.2 billion all-stock deal to create one of the largest U.S. utilities, the companies said.

(Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

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