MarketWatch.com - Pre-Market Indications

Monday, February 22, 2010

Indications: Stock index futures point to higher Wall St. open

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By William L. Watts, MarketWatch

LONDON (MarketWatch) -- U.S. stock index futures were pointing to a higher open for Wall Street Monday amid growing optimism over the strength of the economic recovery.

S&P 500 futures were up 3.30 points at 1,109.50, while Nasdaq 100 index futures rose 8.25 points to 1,827.50. Dow Jones Industrial Average futures climbed 30 points.

The Nasdaq Composite Index /quotes/comstock/10y!i:comp (COMP 2,244, +2.16, +0.10%) ended Friday with a gain of 0.1%, while the S&P 500 /quotes/comstock/21z!i1:in\x (SPX 1,109, +2.42, +0.22%) closed up 0.2%, with utilities and financials leading the way. The Dow gained ground in all four sessions of the holiday-shortened week to score a weekly gain of 3%.

European stocks were slightly weaker, while Asian shares ended mostly higher. See Europe Markets.

The euro slipped 0.1% versus the U.S. dollar in choppy trade to change hands at $1.3602. The European Union on Monday denied news reports that a European Union aid package worth around 20 billion to 25 billion euros ($27 billion to $33.8 billion) was in the works, news reports said. Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou on Sunday told the BBC in a television interview that Greece wasn't seeking a bailout but needed political support for its deficit-cutting measures.

"Despite reassuring comments from Greek politicians on its budget, European investors are clearly still nervous that worse could be in store for the euro," said Jane Foley, research director at Forex.com.

Greek concerns, however, were having little impact on U.S. stocks, said Kenneth Broux, market economist at Lloyds TSB.

The S&P 500 index's close last week was a positive signal for U.S. equities, he said.

Among stocks in focus for Monday, GlaxoSmithKline /quotes/comstock/13*!gsk/quotes/nls/gsk (GSK 38.26, -0.58, -1.49%) was weaker in London after the New York Times said on Saturday that the group's diabetes medicine Avandia weakens the heart sufficiently to increase users' chances of heart attacks and heart failure. The newspaper based its story on a report it said it had obtained from the FDA.

In a statement, GlaxoSmithKline said it rejected those conclusions and that " the scientific evidence simply does not establish that Avandia increases ischemic cardiovascular risk or causes myocardial ischemic events."

Constellation Energy Group /quotes/comstock/13*!ceg/quotes/nls/ceg (CEG 34.58, +0.71, +2.10%) on Monday said it swung to a fourth-quarter net profit of $4.42 billion, or $21.96 a share, from a loss of $1.4 billion, or $7.75 a share, recorded in the year-earlier period. Stripping out one-time items, adjusted earnings in the latest quarter came in at 30 cents a share, a penny below the consensus forecast produced by a poll of analysts surveyed by FactSet Research.

No. 2 U.S. home-improvement retailer Lowe's Cos. /quotes/comstock/13*!low/quotes/nls/low (LOW 23.13, -0.02, -0.09%) said Monday its fourth-quarter profit rose to $205 million, or 14 cents a share, from $162 million, or 11 cents a share, a year earlier. Analysts, on average, forecast profit of 13 cents a share, according to FactSet Research.

The company forecast profit of 27 to 29 cents a share in the first quarter and $1.30 to $1.42 a share for the full year.

Campbell Soup Co. /quotes/comstock/13*!cpb/quotes/nls/cpb (CPB 33.93, +0.08, +0.24%) said its fiscal second-quarter profit rose to $259 million, or 74 cents a share, from $233 million, or 64 cents a period, in the year-ago period. Sales rose 1% to $2.2 billion. Analysts polled by FactSet Research had expected earnings of 73 cents a share on sales of $2.2 billion.

Quanta Services /quotes/comstock/13*!pwr/quotes/nls/pwr (PWR 17.88, -0.12, -0.67%) said its fourth-quarter net income declined to $43.9 million, or 21 cents a share, from $46.5 million, or 24 cents a share, a year ago. Analysts polled by FactSet Research had produced a consensus forecast of 20 cents a share. Revenue at the contracting services firm rose to $985.4 million from $921.5 million in the same period the previous year.

The U.S. economic data calendar is virtually bare for Monday, but closely watched figures are set for release Tuesday on home prices and consumer confidence, followed later in the week by durable goods orders and a revised look Friday at fourth-quarter GDP growth.

Economists expect growth for the quarter to be revised to 5.9% from a previous estimate of 5.7%. Read Market Snapshot.

But center stage will likely be occupied by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, who is scheduled to deliver his semi-annual outlook testimony to congressional panels on Wednesday and Thursday.

The testimony follows the Fed's decision last week to raise its discount rate. The move caught financial markets off guard, temporarily weighing on stocks despite the Fed's insistence that the move was a technical measure that wasn't meant to indicate an imminent tightening of monetary policy.

"Fed Chairman Bernanke is likely to sound cautiously upbeat on growth and inflation, consistent with the upward revisions to the central tendency forecasts within the January FOMC (Federal Open Market Committee) minutes," wrote economists at Barclays Capital.

Oil futures were up 19 cents a barrel at $80 in electronic trade.

The dollar slipped 0.2% versus the Japanese yen to trade at 91.35 yen.

William L. Watts is a reporter for MarketWatch in London.


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