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Flat open ahead

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Traders are looking at a flat open in U.S. markets as brokers make cautious comments on large caps, while European stocks give back the bulk of an early day bounce after disappointing March manufacturing data gave caution to bulls.

S&P futures (sp03m) currently show a 3.3 point gain at 850.30. NASDAQ futures (nd03m) are higher 3 points at 1,024, while Dow futures (dj03m) are rising 40 points to 7,980.

Fair value for the S&P 500 today is $-0.88. That price will not change during the session. HL Camp & Company has their computers set for program buying at $0.26 and set for program selling at $-2.42. Fair value for the NASDAQ-100 today is $3.12.

In a morning call, JP Morgan is cautious on International Business Machines (NYSE:IBM) $78.43 saying that IBM's results on April 14 will likely be pressured by the industry wide deterioration of enterprise demand in late March, despite the company's competitive advantage which allows it to partly counter the industry weakness with market share gains. JP Morgan said it expects IBM to report Q1 EPS of $0.78 on revenues of $19.6 billion, slightly below consensus of $0.79 and $19.9 billion respectively.

Shares of American Airlines parent AMR Corp. (NYSE:AMR) $2.10 jumped 17.6% to $2.47 as the struggling airline strikes a last- minute deal with unions to cut costs.

The gains for airlines, a stronger dollar and weaker crude prices improved some of the sentiment for equities with the S&P 500 tracker stock (AMEX:SPY) $84.74 rising to $85.38.

Electronics retailer Best Buy (NYSE:BBY) $26.97 said it expects same-store sales to decline in the "low single digits" percentage range for the quarter ending in May due to geo-political concerns and the uncertain consumer environment. In morning trading over the New York ECN, shares of Best Buy slipped more than $1 to $25.90.

Shares of Concord EFS (NYSE:CE) $9.40 are gaining 26% to $11.83 amid a report in the Wall Street Journal that First Data Corp. (NYSE:FDC) $37.01 is in acquisition talks for more than $7 billion in stock.

On the SARS front, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that health officials in Hong Kong concerned over a continued spread of the severe acute respiratory syndrome or SARS have moved residents out of an isolated building into quarantine camps. On Tuesday, Hong Kong officials cited an additional 75 people were hit with the severe acute respiratory syndrome, which included 52 in the infectious Amoy Gardens Apartment complex.

Later this morning at 10:00 AM EST, traders will receive three economic reports in the form of March ISM Index (consensus 49.0 vs. prior 50.5), February Construction Spending (consensus -0.8% vs. prior +1.7%) and February Factory Orders (consensus -0.7% vs. prior +1.5%). The March ISM Index is a broader national reading on manufacturing activity, which the more regional Chicago PMI reported yesterday showed contraction with a reading below 50.0 of 48.4.

Jeff Bailey

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