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U.S. Stock Futures Maintain Loss After Retail, N.Y. Factory Data

Jan. 15 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. stock futures maintained losses as a gauge of New York-area manufacturing contracted for a sixth straight month, while another report showed retail sales grew more than forecast.

Standard & Poor’s 500 Index futures expiring in March retreated 0.4 percent to 1,458.8 at 8:32 a.m. in New York. Contracts on the Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 40 points, or 0.3 percent, to 13,393 today.

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s general economic index fell to minus 7.8 from a revised minus 7.3 in December. The median forecast of 54 economists in a Bloomberg survey called for a reading of zero, which signals no change in conditions. Readings of less than zero signal contraction in New York, northern New Jersey and southern Connecticut.

The 0.5 percent gain in retail sales followed a revised 0.4 percent increase in November that was more than previously reported, Commerce Department figures showed. The median forecast of 83 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for a 0.2 percent rise. Sales excluding automobiles and gasoline climbed 0.6 percent for a second month.

The S&P 500 slipped 0.1 percent yesterday as a slump in Apple Inc. offset a rally in Dell. The equity benchmark reached the highest level since December 2007 last week as U.S. lawmakers agreed on a compromise budget and companies reported earnings that beat analyst estimates.

President Barack Obama said yesterday he won’t bargain with Republicans over raising the government’s debt ceiling and called for separate discussions on spending cuts to narrow the deficit.

“What I will not do is to have that negotiation with a gun at the head of the American people,” he said at a White House news conference, referring to the Republican linkage of increasing the debt limit with deficit reduction.

Obama and congressional Republicans are heading toward confrontation in the next six to eight weeks over the government’s $16.4 trillion debt ceiling, which it reached at the end of last month, and deficit cuts. The Treasury is using extraordinary measures to pay bills and its secretary, Timothy Geithner, says they will only work until mid-February to early March.

Since 1960, Congress has raised or revised the limit 79 times, including 49 times under Republican presidents, according to the Treasury Department.

About 77 percent of the 30 companies in the S&P 500 that reported quarterly earnings beat projections. Analysts on average forecast growth of 2.5 percent in fourth-quarter earnings, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

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