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Stock futures slip with Ukraine, Gaza in focus

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[July 21, 2014]  NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures edged lower on Monday as developments in Ukraine and Middle East looked to dominate trading amid a thin economic calendar.

The death toll from the two-week conflict topped 500 amid growing international calls for a ceasefire, and Israeli jets, tanks and artillery continued to pound the Gaza Strip. Fighters from Hamas, which controls Gaza, have repeatedly tried to infiltrate Israel over the past week through a network of hidden tunnels.

Ukraine launched a military assault to break a rebel hold on the eastern city of Donetsk in the first major fighting in the area since a Malaysia Airlines jet with 298 people aboard was shot down last week. The United States and its allies have pointed the finger at pro-Russian rebels and at Moscow itself over the downing of the plane. Russia has denied involvement and blamed the Ukrainian military for the disaster.

The United States and the EU last week announced further economic sanctions against Russian interests, which could become more stringent following the crash.

S&P 500 e-mini futures <ESc1> were down 5 points and fair value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the contract, indicated a lower open. Dow Jones industrial average e-mini futures <1YMc1> fell 42 points, and Nasdaq 100 e-mini futures <NQc1> lost 5 points.

The economic calendar included the Chicago Fed's National Activity Index due at 8:30 a.m. EDT.

Halliburton Co <HAL.N> shares rose 1.5 percent premarket after the world's No. 2 oilfield services provider reported a 20 percent increase in quarterly profit. The company also boosted share repurchases to $6 billion from $5 billion.

EMC Corp <EMC.N> jumped 4.7 percent premarket. Activist investor Elliott Management Corp acquired a $1 billion stake in the data storage equipment maker, and plans to push the company to spin off its VMware Inc <VMW.N> unit, the Wall Street Journal reported.

(Reporting by Rodrigo Campos; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

[ 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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