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U.S. Stock Futures Prices Little Changed

By Tomi Kilgore U.S. stock futures prices were little changed early on Tuesday, with investors digesting mixed corporate news as earnings reporting season winds down. About 90 minutes ahead of the open, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures inched up five points, or less than 0.1%, to 16449. On Monday, the Dow rose 18 points, or 0.1%, but had been down as much as 136 points at its intraday low. The Dow is now sitting just 0.3% below its record closing high on April 30. S&P 500 index futures were little changed at 1876 and Nasdaq-100 futures tacked on two points, or 0.1%, to 3593. Changes in stock futures don't always accurately predict stock moves after the opening bell. Despite the intraday turnaround in benchmark indexes on Monday--the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite Index also erased early steep declines to close slightly higher--the Russell 2000 index declined, underscoring the recent relative weakness in small-capitalization stocks. The Russell 2000 closed Monday down 3.2% on the year, compared with a 2% gain in the S&P 500 and a 0.9% decline in the Nasdaq Composite. Steve Weeple, managing director of global equities at Standard Life Investments, which has $305 billion in assets under management, said he still feels positive about the market because despite all the geopolitical concerns and the recent selloff in some of the more pricey sectors, "the market keeps grinding higher." The near-daily announcements of corporate megadeals is also very encouraging, as it means "companies are feeling confident in the stock market, not just to buy their own stock but stocks of other companies," Mr. Weeple said. "Corporate activity is a really good indicator of confidence." He added that he has been looking at the recent selloff in the biotechnology, Internet and high-growth consumer sectors as an opportunity to buy some good companies. "You can't have blind faith," Mr. Weeple said. "But the macro data continue to be generally supportive, and corporate outlooks are generally positive." The deal flow continued on Tuesday, as Dow component Merck gained 0.6% in premarket trading after the company agreed to sell its consumer-care business to Germany's Bayer for $14.2 billion. In other early stock movers, Athenahealth slumped 11% after Greenlight Capital founder David Einhorn said at the annual Sohn Investment Conference late Monday said he was short the stock, and believed it could fall 80%. American International Group fell 2.5% after the insurer topped first-quarter earnings estimates, but missed on revenue. The stock had fallen 2.9% over the past three sessions, after closing at a 5 1/2-year high on April 30. Office Depot ran up 9.6% after exceeding first-quarter earnings and revenue forecasts, and raising its earnings outlook. As earnings reporting season winds down, overall expectations have improved steadily. With 78% of the S&P 500 having reported first-quarter results, aggregate earnings per share are now expected to be up 1.5% from year-ago levels, according to FactSet, versus expectations of a 1.2% decline at the end of March. Revenue is seen growing 2.6% from last year, according to FactSet. At 8:30 a.m. EDT, the trade deficit for March is expected to show a narrowing to $40.2 billion from $42.3 billion in February. Looking ahead, the highlight of a relatively quiet week for economic news will be Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen's testimony to Congress on Wednesday. Investors will be keenly focused on the question-and-answer period for any signs that the Fed may be changing its exit strategy from its low interest rate policy following a strong April jobs report. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note ticked up to 2.623% from 2.611% late Monday Gold futures edged up 0.1% to $1310.80 an ounce, while crude oil futures tacked on 0.2% to $99.67 a barrel. The dollar lost some ground against the euro and the yen. European markets eased slightly despite upbeat euro zone data, with the Stoxx Europe 600 slipping 0.1%. Markit's composite purchasing managers index for the euro zone rose to 54.0 in April from 53.1 in March, the highest level since May 2011 and in line with expectations. Readings above 50 signal expansion. In addition, euro zone retail sales for March rose 0.3% on the month, beating expectations of a 0.2% decline. That helped offset a downbeat outlook by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which lowered its forecast for global economic growth, and called on the European Central Bank to cut interest rates to combat low inflation. Asian markets were little changed as many markets were on vacation. China's Shanghai Composite inching up less than 0.1%. Markets in Japan, Hong Kong and South Korea were closed.

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