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Wall Street Breakfast: U.S. Stocks Look To Battle Past Asia

U.S. stock futures are pointing higher as they look to overcome another tough day in the Asian markets. The Shanghai Composite Index fell 2.1% and the Hang Seng Index was off 3.4% after manufacturing data from China rekindled concerns on growth in the region. Indexes in Australia and South Korea were also lower, while markets in Japan were closed for a national holiday. European stocks are in a seesaw session, with most major indexes now showing solid gains. All eyes are on Germany, where one in six jobs is dependent upon the automobile industry in some way. Economists are busy trying to estimate the broad impact of the Volkswagen (OTCQX:VLKAY) scandal on German GDP.

The Markit Eurozone Manufacturing PMI fell to 53.9 in September missing the estimate of economists. The read on manufacturing was 40 basis points lower than the 54.3 mark in August, but roughly in line with activity over the last eight months. Service sector growth outpaced manufacturing by a small margin. Growth of new orders hit a five-month high, in a positive signal for steady expansion of the eurozone economy.

The American Petroleum Institute indicated U.S. crude stockpiles fell 3.7M barrels last week. The mark was a steeper drop than analysts forecast. Stocks at the Cushing, Oklahoma delivery location were down almost 500K barrels. Oil prices are higher in early trading, after digesting the drawdown in the U.S. and Chinese manufacturing data. The U.S. government's Energy Information Administration releases its own report on supply later today.

Activity in China's factory sector fell to the lowest level in over six years. The preliminary Caixin China manufacturing purchasing managers' index dropped to 47.0 in September, compared to the 47.5 reading expected by economists. The index came in at 47.3 in August. The decline was led by a weak read for new orders and new export orders. Several investment firms lowered their estimates on China growth after factoring in the new manufacturing data.

The executive committee of Volkswagen's supervisory board meets today in Germany, with the automaker facing an unprecedented scandal. The company has now admitted that over 11 million diesel vehicles globally have software with programming aimed at defeating emissions control testing. The developments this week are expected to create a power struggle at Volkswagen and could cost CEO Martin Winterkorn his job. Shares of Volkswagen are down over 4% in Frankfurt trading, and are off over 37% for the week.

Total said it will reduce capex to a range of $20-$21B in 2016 and $17-$19B a year beyond that as it adjusts to lowered expectations for growth. Operating expenses at Total (NYSE:TOT) will also be slashed. The actions will help the French oil major cover its dividend, according to CFO Patrick de la Chevardiere.

Cisco is expected to announce a partnership in China with Inspur Group as it makes a bold move to adjust to a difficult local market. The company's revenue in China is estimated to have fallen off 30% from a peak of $2.04B in fiscal year 2012. Cisco's (NASDAQ:CSCO) interest in the upstart server maker shows its willingness to try a different tactic in China. It's also a bit of a departure for a tech concern that has worked closely with the Chinese government in the past. Sources expect the announcement by Cisco to be made later today while Chinese President Xi Jinping is being entertained in Seattle.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton came out against the Keystone XL oil pipeline, making the announcement after years of pressure from environmentalists opposed to TransCanada's (NYSE:TRP) controversial project. The former secretary of state in President Obama's first term said the project had become an impediment to efforts to fight climate change. Clinton's announcement is sparking fresh calls from green groups for Obama to reject the proposal.

Norfolk Southern announced Wick Moorman will step down from his role as executive chairman of the board in October. Moorman will stay on as a director at Norfolk Southern (NYSE:NSC) until December 31. CEO James Squire will take over the chairman position. The company also disclosed that Mark Manion will resign from his position as chief operating officer on February 1, 2016.

MetLife increased its repurchase authorization to $1B. The company wrapped up a previous $1B buyback program announced last December. MetLife (NYSE:MET) CEO Steven Kandarian said management believes excess capital belongs to shareholders. He also stated the new buyback firepower is consistent with prudent capital management strategy.

Disney is poised to break through a resistance and sail past its 200-day moving average, according to Evercore ISI's Rich Ross. The analyst calls for a run to $120 by Disney (NYSE:DIS) by the end of the year. Analysts covering Disney also have their eyes on reports that ESPN may lay off employees, as the network remains under pressure to cut $100M from its 2016 budget.

Patriot Coal disclosed that Blackhawk Mining won a bankruptcy auction for the majority of its assets. The terms of Blackhawk's bid were not disclosed, but it did not include cash; instead, the company offered Patriot's (OTC:PATAQ) creditors new debt and a stake in the entity that would own the auctioned assets. The sale is subject to approval by the U.S. bankruptcy court in Richmond, VA.

Today's Markets

In Asia, Japan closed for holiday. Hong Kong -2.3% to 21302. China -2.2% to 3115.89. India +0.8% to 25843.
In Europe, at midday, London +1.1%. Paris +0.9%. Frankfurt +1.0%.
Futures at 6:20, Dow +0.2%. S&P +0.2%. Nasdaq +0.3%. Crude +0.9% to $46.77. Gold -0.01% to $1124.70.
Ten-year Treasury Yield flat at 2.15%.

Today's Economic Calendar

Wednesday's economic calendar:
7:00 MBA Mortgage Applications
9:45 PMI Manufacturing Index Flash
10:30 EIA Petroleum Inventories
11:30 Results of $13B, 2-Year FRN Auction
1:00 PM Results of $35B, 5-Year Note Auction

Companies reporting earnings today