* Factory orders data due
* Oracle to buy Acme Packet for $1.9 billion
* Futures off: Dow 68 pts, S&P 7.2 pts, Nasdaq 14.5 pts
By Chuck Mikolajczak
NEW YORK, Feb 4 U.S. stocks were set for a lower
open on Monday before a report on December factory orders, and
the major indexes were poised for a pullback after the S&P 500
hit a five-year high and the Dow rose above 14,000 last week.
The benchmark S&P index is up more than 6 percent for
the year, with nearly half of the gains coming in the session
after U.S. legislators successfully sidestepped temporarily the
"fiscal cliff" of automatic tax increases and spending cuts,
which threatened to derail the economic recovery.
The gains on Friday left the benchmark S&P 500 roughly 60
points away from its all-time intraday high of 1,576.09.
The Dow's march above 14,000 was the highest October 2007.
"We should get a pullback. Markets have been on a tear and
they have been on a tear for good, sound economic and
earnings-driven reasons," said Peter Kenny, managing director at
Knight Capital in Jersey City, New Jersey.
Investors will look to December factory orders data for
signs of economic improvement. Economists in a Reuters survey
expect a rise of 2.2 percent compared with an unchanged reading
Economic data has pointed to a modest U.S. recovery, but the
data has not been strong enough to upset investor expectations
the Federal Reserve will continue its stimulus policy that has
"We are right on that razor's edge, so to speak, where there
is not enough robust profile in the economic data to suggest the
Fed needs to change policy, but at the same time people are
aware that there is a shelf life on this policy and as we
continue to sit on that fence, the markets move higher," said
Shares of household products company Clorox rose 0.9
percent to $79.90 in premarket trading after the company's
quarterly profit beat analysts' estimates as a severe flu season
boosted sales of disinfecting wipes.
Earnings are due from Anadarko Petroleum Corp and
Yum! Brands Inc, owner of fast-food chains.
S&P 500 futures fell 7.2 points and were below fair
value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account
interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the
contract. Dow Jones industrial average futures lost 68
points, and Nasdaq 100 futures shed 14.5 points.
According to Thomson Reuters data, of the 252 companies in
the S&P 500 that have reported earnings through Friday, 69
percent have reported earnings above analyst expectations
compared with the 62 percent average since 1994 and the 65
percent average over the past four quarters.
S&P 500 fourth-quarter earnings are expected to rise 4.4
percent, according to the data. That estimate is above the 1.9
percent forecast at the start of earnings season, but well below
the 9.9 percent fourth-quarter earnings forecast on Oct. 1.
Oracle Corp lost 2.2 percent to $35.40 in premarket
action after the company agreed to buy network gear maker Acme
Packet Inc for about $1.9 billion. Acme Packet shares
jumped 21.9 percent to $29.16 before the opening bell.
Herbalife Ltd slumped 8.8 percent to $32 before the
open after The New York Post reported the seller of weight loss
products is facing a probe by the Federal Trade Commission.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc shed 1.2 percent to $69.65 in
premarket trading after JP Morgan lowered its rating on the
world's largest retailer to "neutral" and reduced its price
target to $75 from $84 per share.
Chevron Corp dipped 0.9 percent to $115.47 in
premarket trade after UBS cut its rating on the Dow component to