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U.S. stocks were set for an early sell off Tuesday, as oil prices continued to skyrocket and overseas markets faltered on the escalating political crisis in Libya.
U.S. markets were closed on Monday for the President's Day holiday. But oil prices surged more than 6%, as anti-government protests in the Middle East and Africa intensified - raising worries about possible supply disruptions.
Oil prices rose another 7% Tuesday as the chaos in Libya entered an eighth day. The turmoil in North Africa and the Middle East has roiled world financial markets, with stocks plunging across Asia and markets in Europe under pressure.
In Tripoli, protesters have been demanding freedom and decrying high unemployment under Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's nearly 42-year-old regime. Gadhafi asserted Tuesday that he is still in control of the country, while witnesses and sources in the Libyan capital report a food shortage, gunfire and violence by security forces.
Economy: The Conference Board will release its February consumer confidence report at 15:00 GMT. Economists expect it to rise slightly from January to 67.
Companies: A flurry of retail earnings are due before the market opens, giving investors a fresh read on the U.S. consumer's situation.
The world's largest retailer Wal-Mart (WMT, Fortune 500) said it earned of $1.41 per share in the fourth quarter, including tax benefits amounting to 7 cents per share. Analysts were expecting earnings of $1.31 a share. Sales rose 2.5% to $115.6 billion in the quarter. Wal-Mart's stock was down nearly 2% before the bell.
Shares of Home Depot (HD, Fortune 500) were up about 3% in premarket trading after the home improvement retailer reported quarterly earnings and sales that beat analysts' expectations.
Macy's (M, Fortune 500) also reported fourth-quarter earnings that were better than analysts' had expected.
Shares of Mentor Graphics (MENT) jumped 15% before the bell, after billionaire investor Carl Icahn offered to buy the company for $17 per share. The stock closed Friday at $14.52 per share.
Hewlett-Packard (HPQ, Fortune 500) will report its earnings after the closing bell.
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