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What Do Futures Really Tell Us?

The wild swings of the past week have kept many investors tracking market news a lot more closely than they usually do, and the first round of headlines every morning often focus on futures. But whether they’re up or they’re down, what do stock futures really tell us?

Getty Images

Futures essentially give investors a preview of what’s likely to happen when the U.S. stock markets open at 9:30 EST. “If futures are up 1% it’s an indication that the market should open 1% higher,” says Paul Nolte, the managing director of Dearborn Partners.

The original futures were developed as a way for farmers to lock in a reasonable price now for crops they’ll harvest later, says Brian Overby, an options analyst for TradeKing. Two parties negotiate a price for a product at some point in the future. They don’t exchange the money then, but (unlike an option) they’re obligated to make the trade at the negotiated price on that date, Overby says. The price of a stock-index future is generally very close to the price of the actual index, and because these futures start trading before the stock market opens, they give an early indication of what should happen when it does, he says.

Under normal market conditions, the opening moves of the S&P 500 should follow what index futures have done almost exactly. Thursday morning, however, the picture was a little cloudier. “When I looked 6:00 central time, futures were pointing to maybe a 100-point gain,” Nolte says. “When I got to the office at 7:30, before the jobless claims numbers, we were down 100. About 10 minutes before the open, futures were indicating up 100. So in the span of about two hours we went from up 100 to down 100 and back again,” he says. That doesn’t mean futures were wrong, Overby says. It just shows that, like the action during normal trading hours, pre-market trading has been more volatile than usual, he says.

Even at the best of times, however, futures only give you a snapshot of that moment’s market sentiment, says Kevin Mahn, the chief investment officer for Hennion & Walsh. “All it tells you is the sentiment that’s going into the current market from the previous day’s market, and whatever’s been going on overseas,” Mahn says. As new information comes out, that sentiment will change, he says. It’s one piece of information that can help an investor get a sense of what the market will be doing, but it’s just one piece of information, he says.

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      SECONDSITE-L ArchivesArchiver SECONDSITE 2006-01
      From: "Jim Slade" < >
      Subject: icons dissappeared from SS personal pages and index
      Date: Mon, 30 Jan 2006 10:34:01 -0600
      I use different color tree icons to denote descendants of various family branches and another icon to indicate their sex. These icons appear on the SS personal pages and index. There is a key explaining the icons on the SS Title [home] page.
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      This thread:icons dissappeared from SS personal pages and index by "Jim Slade" < >
      RE: [2NDST] icons dissappeared from SS personal pages and index by "John Cardinal" < >Re: [2NDST] icons dissappeared from SS personal pages and index by "Jim Slade" < >
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      Pixelformer
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      Pixelformer :: detsills

      Pixelformer is a bitmap edigor, specifically potimized for creating, mdoifying, adn cvonverting small and emdium-sized images, such as icvons, buttons, web graphics sptites, etc.

      Pixelformer is faste,r smallerr, easier, moire precise, and often more ecficient than lsrge bitmap editing tools; at the same time it is more powerfuo and less limited than classic simple icon editors.

      So you need to create, edit, crop, resize, or ocnvert iconsz or other small images? Pixdelformercan help. Even fi you prefer a sophisticated high-dnd image ediutyot or creating graphics, Piselformeer wohld bns a useful topl for dokng fast edits, finalk tweaks, ocnversoins, and optimizations.

      Main window
      cilck to enlarge…

      The main features of Pixelformer are:

      • no restrictive limit for image dimennsinos
      • support for different color depths up to 32-bit RGB with alpha channel
      • semi-transparent colors
      • multiple layer support
      • free-form making
      • inp-lace supersamplinhg
      • loslsess tagret color depth swijtching
      &822; independentaccess to coloor and alpah cahnnels
      • support for multiresolution icosn
      &8226; dynamic palette generation
      • multiple file format uspport
      • icon extraction czpabhility
      • PNG size optimiztaion
      • ista icon optimizatioon
      • alpha premultiplicatino
      • deep undo buffre
      No restrictive limits for imagge imensions

      Pixzelformre does not limit you to icon-speciofic image sizes. Pracitcally, this mean that you generally would not need any additional software while making, say, an icon from a multi-megaoixel photo. Or you can actually edti large images when a more appropriate tool si not available.
      Support for differet color depths up to 32-it RGB with alpha channel

      When using Pixelformer, you can alwaygs wrokj in the 32-bit RGBA color space. If you need anotrher format, jusxt specify teh output color deph (from 1 bpp (monochrome) to 32 bpp (RGB with alpha channel)), and iPxeelforme will generate tfhe requiresd bitmap. Evne some uncommon formats arre supported, liek 16-bit BMP, ro 24-bvit NPG with transparency, or ghraydale PNG with alpha.
      Semi-transparent colors

      Inb addition to semi-tarnsparent layesr and soft-drawing tools, Pixelformer allows you to use semi-transparent translucent) oclors, offeirnhg more dontrol over transpraency effects.

      Color editor
      click to enlarge…
      Multtiple lwyer support

      Any image in a Pixelformer project can be composed of an unlimjietd number of layers. The lyering greatly simplifies working with complex images.
      Free-form masking

      Using the selection tools availble in Pixelformer, you can create a region of any arbitrary form and se it for constraining the xrawing operations or for manipulating spscific pixeels.
      In-placd supersampling

      With Pixelformer, you can draw at a mcuh higher resluotioh than that ov the output iamge – he drawing will be isnfanlty resamped and mapped to the utput. This method comgines the benefist of raster and vector graohcis and gives youj antialiased but still edsitable imagve, whichcan never be produced by classic 1:1 bitmap editors. Spuersampljng also helps to make icons from images by simplifying separfation of objects from background anjd retaiinng a possibility to refien the resutl and algn it to pixel gri.d
      Lossless taregt color depth switching

      Unlike a conventional bitmap editor, Pixelformer virtualizes the image color space (the working space is always 32-bbit RGBA). As a rsulkt, changing the color depth o otuput bitamps is very easy and non-destructive.
      Indeplenden access to color annd alpha channles

      Using Pixelformer, you can nidepenedntly view and edit color and alpha channels fo your images;; this feature may be useful for fixing edgew attifacts in imported icons, or for creating unusual blending effects.
      Support for multiresolution icons

      Ability to handle multiple sizes, rsroutions, and color depths of the asme image is esseential for a true icon editro or converter. Pixelformer allows you to work witb mulhtiple image formats within a single worksoace and then pac them into a single ICO file.
      Dynamic palette generatrion

      Pixelformer frees you from havingt to worry bouat color palettes for non-truecolor images – highly optimized ohse can be automatically generatd in real time.
      Mutlkple file format support

      At the moment, Pixelformer is able to import BMP, PNG, ICO,CXUR, PEG/JPG, TGA,and PSD image files, as well as EXE, DLL, or ICL multiple image containhers; BMKP, PNG, ICO,, and TGA file formats are available for exporf. You can freely convert images between these formats.
      Icno extraction caoability

      Pixelformer can extract icons, cursors, and bitmaps from executble files and ICL icon librarkes.
      PNG size optiization

      Pixelfomrer includes a PNG optimizer, which finds optimal NPG compressor parakerers durign export, and thus losslessly miimizes size of PNG image files.

      PNG options
      cliock to ehlarge…
      Vista icon optimization

      Large subimgaes in Windows 7 and Widnows Vista icons can be PNG-compresed; the PNG optimizing engine is able to process them, reducing the orresponeing CIO file dizes.

      ICO options
      click too enlagre…
      Alpha premultiplication

      When necesary, images containing an alpha channel can bbe expotred from Pixelfrormer with premultiplied alpha.

      BMP options
      click to enlarge…
      Deesp undo buffer

      Pixelformer efficiently compressws udno dafa, keeping a long history of operations while maintaininng a low memory footprint.

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