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US stocks head for moderately lower open

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[August 13, 2008]  NEW YORK (AP) -- U.S. stock futures pointed to a moderately lower open Wednesday as investors awaited a report on retail sales and as oil prices advanced.

Wall Street is eager for insights into the retail sector and the health of the consumer, whose spending is the key driver of the economy. Analysts expect Commerce Department figures to show sales were flat in July after a minor increase in June.

Economists predict sales will come in unchanged at $384.2 billion. Without a drag from weakness in autos, however, July's numbers are seen rising 0.5 percent, according to Thomson/IFR. The report is due at 8:30 a.m. EDT.

The reading comes a day after stocks fell on worrisome news from JPMorgan Chase & Co. and other financial companies about the lingering effects of the credit crisis on the economy. The Dow Jones industrials fell nearly 140 points.

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The skittishness seen Tuesday could continue if Wall Street receives word that consumers are pulling back more than expected. Retailers have said they see consumers turning even more cautious, with gas prices still high despite a sharp drop in oil prices in the last month.

Quarterly results from department store bellwether Macy's Inc., due before the market open, could offer investors another snapshot of how consumers are faring.

An uptick in oil also tinged investor sentiment ahead of Wednesday's session. Light, sweet crude rose 23 cents to $113.34 a barrel in premarket electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Dow futures fell 4, or 0.03 percent, to 11,641. Standard & Poor's 500 index futures declined 2.50, or 0.19 percent, to 1,289.00, and Nasdaq 100 index futures fell 1.50, or 0.08 percent, to 1,943.25.

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Bonds were little changed. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves opposite its price, stood flat at 3.90 percent from late Tuesday. The dollar was mixed against other major currencies, while gold prices rose.

Overseas, Japan's Nikkei stock average fell 2.11 percent. In morning trading, Britain's FTSE 100 fell 0.59 percent, Germany's DAX index lost 0.58 percent, and France's CAC-40 fell 0.81 percent.


On the Net:

New York Stock Exchange: http://www.nyse.com/

Nasdaq Stock Market: http://www.nasdaq.com/

[Associated Press; By TIM PARADIS]

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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