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U.S. Stock Futures Fall Before Home Data as Jobless Claims Rise

Feb. 21 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. stock futures fell, indicating the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index will extend its biggest decline since November, as more Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week and investors awaited a home sales report.

VeriFone Systems Inc. lost 36 percent after the maker of credit-card terminals forecast second-quarter profit that missed analysts’ estimates because of weak economic conditions in Europe. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. rose 1.1 percent as the world’s biggest retailer reported a profit that topped estimates.

S&P 500 futures expiring next month fell 0.2 percent to 1,504.3 at 8:35 a.m. in New York. The index fell 1.2 percent yesterday amid concern that the Federal Reserve will scale back economic stimulus. Dow Jones Industrial Average futures fell 20 points, or 0.1 percent, to 13,869 today.

“The measured selloff on Wall Street signaled a pause for breath as the Fed reintroduced some uncertainty with its comments on monetary policy,” Richard Hunter, head of equities at Hargreaves Lansdown Plc in London, wrote in an e-mail. “Sentiment remains fragile. Investors will continue to digest the implications as the day wears on, set against some further corporate and economic news which is likely to guide the market’s direction.”

Jobless claims increased by 20,000 to 362,000 in the week ended Feb. 16, the Labor Department reported today in Washington. The median forecast of 48 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for an increase to 355,000. Another report showed the cost of living in the U.S. was little changed in January for a second month as a drop in energy costs made up for gains in other goods and services.

Home Sales

Sales of previously owned U.S. houses probably eased in January, economists said before a report at 10 a.m. in Washington. Purchases fell 0.8 percent to a 4.9 million annualized rate last month from December’s 4.94 million, according to the median forecast of 79 economists surveyed by Bloomberg.

Several participants at the Federal Open Market Committee’s Jan. 29-30 meeting “emphasized that the committee should be prepared to vary the pace of asset purchases, either in response to changes in the economic outlook or as its evaluation of the efficacy and costs of such purchases evolved,” according to the minutes of the gathering released yesterday.

The S&P 500 has gained 6 percent this year as U.S. lawmakers agreed on a compromise budget and companies reported better-than-estimated earnings. The benchmark gauge is 3.4 percent below its 2007 all-time high of 1,565.15, while the Dow is 1.7 percent from its record high of 14,164.53.

Earnings Season

About 71 percent of the 425 companies in the S&P 500 that have released quarterly results since Jan. 8 have exceeded profit estimates, and 65 percent beat sales estimates, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

VeriFone tumbled 36 percent to $20.50 today. Earnings excluding some items will be 45 cents to 50 cents a share in the quarter ending in April, San Jose, California-based VeriFone said. Analysts on average had predicted profit of 80 cents a share, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Tesla Motors Inc. dropped 6.3 percent to $36.10. The maker of electric cars headed by billionaire Elon Musk reported a fourth-quarter loss that was larger than analysts expected, blaming a jump in operating costs during the start of production.

Wal-Mart rose 1.1 percent to $70 as fourth-quarter profit rose 8.6 percent, topping analysts’ estimates. The company also projected first-quarter earnings that trailed analysts’ estimates as an increase in the payroll tax curtails spending among its lower-income shoppers.

Imax Corp. increased 5.2 percent to $26.50. The designer of digital imaging and sound technologies reported fourth-quarter adjusted earnings per share of 23 cents, beating analyst estimates for 16 cents.

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