US pre-open: Futures flat as investors focus on Ukraine and earnings

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LONDON (ShareCast) - US stock markets are expected to open flat to slightly lower on Tuesday morning (Frankfurt: TDM.F - news) in New York (Frankfurt: HX6.F - news) as investors pause for breath with indices near record highs.

An hour ahead of the opening bell, futures were showing losses of around 0.1% for the Dow Jones Industrial Average, Nasdaq and S&P 500.

Heightened tensions in Ukraine were keeping risk appetite in check after an army helicopter was shot down yesterday by pro-Russian activists near the city of Sloviansk. Deaths have been reported on both sides amid heavy fighting along the eastern border as Kiev continues its so-called 'anti-terrorist' operations.

"As the Dow Jones and S&P 500 push towards the top of their ranges at 16,600 and 1,900 respectively, stocks are extra vulnerable to flare ups in Ukraine which is turning increasingly violent," said Market Analyst Jasper Lawler from CMC Markets.

"Any pullbacks should still be limited though as long as Russian troops don't cross the border," he said.

In economic data today, the US trade deficit shrank by 3.6% to $40.4bn in March, better than the $40bn consensus estimate, helped by increased exports of gas, oil and commercial aircraft.

Exports were up 2.2% over the month, the biggest increase since June 2013, while imports rose by a lesser 1.7%.

In corporate news, shares in Office Depot (NYSE: ODP - news) was up as much as 10% in pre-market trade after the group lifted its profit guidance for the 2014 financial year and revealed plans to close more stores.

Other companies will be in focus as they release their quarterly results after the close, including Walt Disney, Groupon (NasdaqGS: GRPN - news) and Whole Foods.

Merck (Other OTC: MKGAF - news) was higher ahead of the bell after Bayer (Milan: BAY.MI - news) said it would acquire the former's consumer division for $14.2bn.

In other markets, West Texas Intermediate futures were down 0.06% at $99.42 a barrel on the NYMEX.

The yield on a 10-year US Treasury was flat at 2.60%.

BC

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