Dow Futures Higher As Stocks Test Record Highs

LONDON — Stock index futures at 7am ET indicate that the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI) may open up by 0.17% this morning, while the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC) may open up by 0.12%.

European markets were largely flat this morning, after making strong gains during the last three weeks. No major economic reports were released in Europe and investors may wait for this afternoon’s US economic reports before deciding whether to extend long positions or lock-in recent gains. Amongst the biggest movers was Dutch parcel delivery firm TNT Express NV, which was up 4.5% at 7am, after releasing a strong set of results. At 7am ET, the FTSE 100 was down 0.05%, the DAX was up 0.02%, and the CAC 40 was down 0.49%.

Today’s US economic calendar is limited to September’s industrial production and capacity utilization reports, both of which are due at 9.15am. Analysts’ consensus forecasts suggest that both will be little changed from August, with industrial production rising by 0.4% (August: 0.4%) and capacity utilization increasing by 78.0% (August: 77.8%). Investors may also hold back from major new positions until they hear what the Fed has to say, following this week’s Federal Reserve Open Market Committee meeting, which takes place on Tuesday and Wednesday.

On the corporate front, Merck & Company reported third-quarter earnings of $0.92 per share earlier this morning, down by 3% from the same period last year. Roper Industries reported a 15% rise in third-quarter earnings per share, while Biogen Idec reported a 23% increase in third-quarter earnings per share, helped by a 29% gain in revenues, which rose to $1.8bn. Biogen shares were 1.5% higher in pre-market trading, following the news. Other big names due to report before markets open today include Burger King Worldwide, while Apple and high-profile nutritional supplements firm Herbalife are both scheduled to issue updates after tonight’s closing bell.

Other stocks which may be actively traded today include Consol Energy, which was 2.3% higher in pre-market trading this morning, as investors reacted to news that the firm is expected to make a ‘significant announcement’ at 8am ET, before markets open. ConAgra Food was also stronger in early trading, and was up by 1.3% earlier this morning.

Finally, let’s not forget the Dow's daily movements can add up to some serious long-term gains. Indeed, Warren Buffett recently wrote: "The Dow advanced from 66 to 11,497 in the 20th Century, a staggering 17,320% increase that materialized despite four costly wars, a Great Depression and many recessions."

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> Roland does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article. The Motley Fool owns shares in Apple.