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Stock futures fall slightly, point to lower open

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[April 20, 2010]  NEW YORK (AP) -- Stock futures are slightly lower Wednesday as the Dow Jones industrial average continues to hover near the 11,000 level for the third straight day.

InsuranceEuropean markets dipped on mounting concerns about Greece's ongoing debt problems, while Asian markets mostly rose as expectations for a global economic recovery grew.

The U.S. market's momentum has slowed in recent days with little economic data to drive trading. No major reports are due out Wednesday, but investors will keep a close watch on the Treasury's auction of 10-year notes later in the day.

The market paused Tuesday, with the Dow remaining below the psychological barrier of 11,000. The Dow hasn't hit that level in 18 months. It came within 12 points of 11,000 before retreating and ending trading nearly 4 points lower Tuesday at about 10,970.

After the Dow jumped about 50 points in the first hour of trading on Monday on upbeat economic reports, it has settled into a 45-point range.


Instead of the broad-market moves that have been standard in recent months, individual shares have been rising or falling on company-specific reports. That trend appears to be holding for at least one more day with futures indicating a slightly lower opening.

Ahead of the opening bell, Dow Jones industrial average futures fell 11, or 0.1 percent, to 10,902. Standard & Poor's 500 index futures fell 2.50, or 0.2 percent, to 1,183.30, while Nasdaq 100 index futures dropped 2.50, or 0.1 percent, to 1,976.25.

The government is auctioning $21 billion in 10-year notes Wednesday. The 10-year note is used as a benchmark for many consumer loans. Bond yields have been rising in recent weeks, which has pushed interest rates higher.

The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves opposite its price, fell to 3.95 percent from 3.96 percent late Tuesday. On Monday, its yield climbed above 4 percent for only the second time since October 2008.

Rising rates have yet to have much effect on stocks. But if rates rise too fast, it could slow the economic recovery, which would put a damper on stocks.

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Stocks have been on a near relentless climb for 13 months. The past two months' gains have come mostly from steady, more modest moves, and not the triple-digit gains that were common early in the market's recovery. Recent momentum is due primarily to a string of economic reports showing the economy is improving, albeit slowly.

The Dow hit its highest level of the day Tuesday after the Federal Reserve's interest rate-setting committee released the minutes from its March meeting. Investors welcomed the comments that showed the Fed is upbeat about economic growth, though there were few surprises in the notes to propel stocks higher.

The dollar rose early Wednesday against other major currencies, while gold and oil dipped.

European markets fell slightly. Britain's FTSE 100 fell 0.1 percent, Germany's DAX index fell less than 0.1 percent, and France's CAC-40 dropped 0.2 percent.

Greek debt worries have been one of the few reasons stocks have retreated in recent months because investors, at times, have been worried that debt problems in Greece and other European countries would upend a global economic recovery.


Japan's Nikkei stock average rose 0.1 percent. Japan's central bank said it would hold its key interest rate steady, and it sees a recovery taking hold. Asian shares also rose after the World Bank boosted its growth forecast for developing economies in East Asia.

[Associated Press; By STEPHEN BERNARD]

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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