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Tickers in this Article: UPS, DD, AAPL
On top of the usual European-centric worries about Spain and Greece, today's trading action will likely also reflect the outlook downgrade for  Germany by a rating agency. There is nothing imminent in the outlook downgrade, but it is nevertheless a reminder that the region's fiscal woes have consequences for its strongest economy as well. Beyond Europe, we have a relatively reassuring read this morning on China's manufacturing sector, indicating that the country's factory sector may not be in free-fall.

On the earnings front, results from DuPont (DD) and UPS (UPS) -- two key bellwethers for the global economy -- confirm the trend that we have seen repeatedly this earnings season: the growth picture is cloudy, prompting companies to be cautious if not altogether negative in their guidance.

Apple (AAPL), which reports after the close today, is believed to be immune from these earthly concerns& or is it? We will sure find out later today, but the company is no doubt in a league of its own.

The China news is definitely on the reassuring side, with the HSBC China Manufacturing Manager's Index for July coming in at 49.5, up from June's 48.2 reading. Just like the ISM readings in the U.S., below-50 readings indicate contraction in the sector, but the improvement from the prior month indicates that the outlook for the country's factory sector may be on the mend. This is the highest level for this closely-watched index in five months and could be indicative that the country's monetary and fiscal easing measures are starting to have an impact.

Some caution, however, is warranted. First, this the 'preliminary' version of the monthly HSBC PMI, reflecting less than complete response rates from survey participants and can get revised in the 'final' version. Second, despite the improvement the measure still shows the country's factory sector in contractionary territory for the ninth straight month. These caveats aside, the measure could be indicative of the long debated 'soft landing' scenario if sustained in the coming days.

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