U.S. Stock Set to Open Lower as Economic Worries

U.S. stocks were poised to open in the red Tuesday as economic worries by investors outweighed some encouraging results from retailers.

Dow Jones industrial average, S&P 500 futures and Nasdaq 100 futures were lower.

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Futures measure current index values against perceived future performance and offer an indication of how markets may open when trading begins in New York.

Wall Street ended a choppy session lower Monday as investors mulled corporate deals and earnings news.

Economy: Investors will be scouring around for any encouraging economic news as they take in readings from both the housing sector and on the American consumer.

The S&P/Case-Shiller home price index comes out at 9 a.m. ET. That’s followed by a report on consumer confidence at 10 a.m. ET.

Perhaps the focus of the week will come Wednesday when Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke appears to testify on Capitol Hill.

Both lawmakers and Wall Street have been trying to get a better sense about how the central bank chief plans to exit some of the various emergency programs that were put in place during the crisis.

Last week, Fed policymakers unexpectedly raised the rate it charges banks that borrow from the central bank when they run short of funds. The move was viewed as largely symbolic since banks do very little borrowing at the discount window.

“Everything he is going to be saying should theoretically be hawkish,” said Dave Lutz, managing director equity trading for Stifel Nicolaus. “It is really tough to tell though which way the market is going to break.”

On the jobs front, as the Senate voted Monday to move forward on a $15 billion jobs creation bill that would give businesses a tax break for hiring the employed and fund highway and transit programs through 2010.

Companies: Toyota executives make their first in a series of appearances on Capitol Hill Tuesday, as the head of U.S. sales for the Japanese automaker is set to appear before a House Energy Committee subpanel.

On Wednesday, Toyota president Akio Toyoda will appear before the House Oversight Committee.

Home Depot (HD, Fortune 500) swung to a fiscal fourth-quarter profit Tuesday, as the home improvement store giant managed to beat analyst expectations.

And the operator of Sears and Kmart stores, Sears Holdings (SHLD, Fortune 500), reported that its profit more than doubled in the latest quarter, helped by stronger sales.

Discounter Target (TGT, Fortune 500) was also set to report results before the opening bell Tuesday.

World markets: European were mixed in late morning trading. Germany’s DAX and France’s CAC 40 were lower, while Britain’s FTSE 100 edged higher.

Asian shares ended mixed. Japan’s Nikkei fell 0.5%, but the Hang Seng in Hong Kong rallied 1.2%.

The dollar eased against both the euro and the yen, but was slightly higher versus the pound.

Oil: Prices slipped below $80 a barrel Tuesday, as crude fell $1.22 to $79.09 a barrel

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