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Lower open blamed on Iraq and spread of SARS

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Equity traders here in the U.S. are looking at a lower open after foreign markets tumbled lower on concerns of a prolonged military conflict in Iraq. Asian market losses were exacerbated by worries for the spread of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), a pneumonia that has already killed at least 57 people in 15 countries.

Asian markets saw Hong Kong's Hang Seng fall 2.58%, Japan's Nikkei 225 drop 3.71% and Taiwan's Taiwan Weighted decline by 3.48%. European bourses have France's CAC 40 declining 4.39%, Germany's DAX down 3.73%, while the United Kingdom's FTSE 100 is lower by 2.29%.

Early morning trade here in the U.S. sees a defensive and buying in Treasuries with the 10-year June futures contract (ty03m) rising 13/32 to $114'240, with the benchmark bond's YIELD ($TNX.X) falling to 3.84%.

Stock futures have S&P futures (sp03m) down 13.4 points at 849.30, NASDAQ futures (nd03m) lower by 19.50 points at 1,032.00 and Dow futures (dj03m) off 115 points at 8,005.

Fair value for the S&P 500 today is $-0.82. That price will not change during the session. HL Camp & Company has their computers set for program buying at $0.46 and set for program selling at $-2.06. Fair value for the NASDAQ-100 today is $3.33.

Shares of Dow component General Electric (NYSE:GE) $26.03 is being marked down 62 cents at $25.41 over the New York ECNs after J.P. Morgan said a closer look at its GE Capital unit's investment in SES Global "illustrates the potential for a hit to earnings and equity value." Analyst Don MacDougall said that GE Capital's investment in SES Global, which GE owns a 31% of, has a current market value of less than $900 million, but is presently being carried on GE's books at $1.7 billion.

GE Capital is slated to hold an investor meeting on April 2 to provide an overview of its business and strategy. "While we expect the message to be positive, we see continued challenges for GE Capital," MacDougall said in a note to clients.

Shares of semiconductor giant Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) $17.22 are falling to $16.79 in pre-market trade after the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) over the weekend said worldwide revenue dropped 3.3% in February to $11.8 billion.

Jeff Bailey

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