By Chuck Mikolajczak
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Stock index futures pointed to a lower open on Monday as the World Bank cut growth forecasts for East Asia, underscoring concerns about the global economic climate and corporate profits on the cusp of the kickoff of the quarterly earnings season.
The World Bank reduced its growth forecasts for the East Asia and Pacific region and said there was a risk the slowdown in China could worsen and last longer than many analysts have forecast.
China, the world's second largest economy, has been hampered by the euro zone debt crisis. Europe is one of China's largest trade partners.
"There is just a lot of uncertainty out there, so any little thing right now tends to be a bit of a drag. Some of it is China, some of it may be concerns about Europe again," said Peter Jankovskis, co-chief investment officer at OakBrook Investments LLC in Lisle, Illinois.
The third-quarter earnings season will kick off on Tuesday with results from Dow component Alcoa Inc <AA.N>. Analysts expect Alcoa to report a break-even quarter, down from a profit of 15 cents per share a year earlier, according to Thomson Reuters data. Alcoa shares dipped 0.7 percent to $9.03 in premarket trade.
Recent earnings warnings from large multinationals such as FedEx Corp <FDX.N>, Caterpillar Inc <CAT.N> and Hewlett-Packard Co <HPQ.N>, which have cited weakness in Europe and China, have made investors cautious about corporate profits.
"Certainly there has been a lot of downward revisions in earnings in general. Some people are predicting that we may see an overall decline in earnings, so there may be some defensive posturing and profit-taking," Jankovskis said.
According to Thomson Reuters data through Friday, 91 companies in the Standard & Poor's 500 <.INX> have issued negative outlooks versus 21 positive preannouncements, for a ratio of 4.3, the weakest showing since the third quarter of 2001.
S&P 500 futures fell 4.2 points on Monday and were below fair value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the contract. Dow Jones industrial average futures lost 45 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures lost 11.25 points.
There are no economic events or S&P 500 companies scheduled to report earnings on Monday, and trading may be light due to the Columbus Day holiday.
Apple Inc <AAPL.O> shares shed 0.9 percent to $646.81 in premarket after China Labor Watch, a rights advocate group, said that a Foxconn plant in China that makes Apple's iPhone was crippled by a strike. Foxconn, a Taiwanese company, denied the report.
Health insurer UnitedHealth Group <UNH.N> said it would buy a 90 percent stake in Amil Participacoes SA <AMIL3.SA>, Brazil's largest healthcare company, for about $4.9 billion.
Chemicals maker TPC Group Inc <TPCG.O> said it received a buyout proposal from Innospec Inc <IOSP.O> for $721.3 million, topping an offer made by private equity firms First Reserve Corp and SK Capital Partners. TPC shares jumped 11.1 percent to $45.20 in premarket.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc <WMT.N> and American Express Co <AXP.N> said they are teaming up to offer customers an alternative to debit and checking accounts with a product that allows deposits via smartphone and mobile bill-paying.
Shares of Renewable Energy Group Inc <REGI.O> slumped 18.8 percent to $5.78 in premarket trade after the biodiesel company said it would post an adjusted loss before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization for the third quarter, versus its prior outlook for an adjusted profit.
(Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; Editing by Leslie Adler)
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