US pre-open: Firmer start seen with oil and Apple in focus

All eyes will be on Apple when the Nasdaq stock exchange opens shortly, with the falling price of oil also on investors' minds.


Investors in America are watching Apple closely

US stock futures are pointing to a slightly firmer kick-off in New York with continuing oil volatility and Apple expected to be in focus during the session.

CMC Markets analyst Jasper Lawler is looking for the Dow to put on 19 points on opening to 17,795, with the S&P 500 treading water. The tech-heavy Nasdaq is expected toedge five points higher to 4,292.

Apple shares sank a hefty 6% yesterday before staging a recovery to finish the session 3.25% lower at $115.07. There was no news event to drive the shares so much lower.

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Lawler reckons Apple's share slide was due to a number of factors, including a tech sector downgrade from Morgan Stanley that also dented sentiment over the likes of Twitter and Facebook.

Another factor that might have helped contribute to Apple's fall is that it goes into another trial today over claims from customers and electronics retailers that it is monopolising digital music markets with iTunes and its iPod devices. The claims could potentially cost the company $1bn if upheld.

According to The Daily Telegraph, the late Steve Jobs is expected to be a key witness in the trial having made a videotaped deposition shortly before his death in 2011.

In pre-market trade Apple shares were up 0.4% to $115.53.

Crude oil will again be another major focus after US oil experienced a rebound yesterday. However, as the Wall Street Journal points out, the consensus remains focused on further falls ahead. In the late morning today, Brent crude for January delivery was down 52 cents at $72.01 a barrel.

CMC's Lawler notes that influential Fed hawks Stanley Fischer and William Dudley have been busy giving a positive spin to the fall in oil prices, saying it will be positive for the US economy. They reckon it will trigger needed lift in consumer spending which has lagged the recovery this year.

The pair also note that the resulting drop in inflation from lower oil prices will only be temporary, implying the Fed is still on track to hike rates by the middle of next year. Their comments could provide further support for a positive start when the market opens.

Elsewhere, car-makers Ford and GM are expected to be active in today's session on the release of US vehiclesales for November.