- Pre-Market Indications

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Indications: U.S. stock futures point higher ahead of more data

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By Barbara Kollmeyer, MarketWatch

MADRID (MarketWatch) -- U.S. stock market futures were pointing to a stronger start for Wall Street on Wednesday, buoyed by strong overseas markets and a solid prior session, as investors awaited more reports on the state of the U.S. economy and more corporate results.

Asian Shares Up On Wall Street, Commodity Gains

Asian markets are sharply higher as Greek fiscal problems ease, following Wall Street gains and with help from resource and commodity stocks. Dow Jones Newswires' Puja Rajeev reports.

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 37 points, or 0.4%, to 10,278, while those for the S&P 500 rose 5.3 points, or 0.5% to 1,098.5. Futures for the Nasdaq 100 rose 5 points, or 0.3%, to 1,804.25.

Aided by improving U.S. economic data and rising confidence in Europe's efforts to help heavily indebted Greece, the Dow Jones Industrial Average /quotes/comstock/10w!i:dji/delayed (INDU 10,269, +169.67, +1.68%) ended with a 169.67-point gain on Tuesday, up 1.7%, at 10,268.81, within 11 points of its intraday high.

The Nasdaq Composite Index /quotes/comstock/10y!i:comp (COMP 2,214, +30.66, +1.40%) rose 1.4% and the S&P 500 /quotes/comstock/21z!i1:in\x (SPX 1,095, +19.36, +1.80%) climbed 1.8%, with energy a key gainer owing to rallying oil prices.

Economic data for Wednesday include January housing starts at 8:30 a.m. Eastern time, import prices at the same time, then industrial production for January at 9:15 a.m. Eastern time.

The minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee are also scheduled for release, and investors will be looking for clues on the future path of interest rates.

Forecasts from economists polled by MarketWatch are calling for housing starts of 590,000, against 557,000 in the prior month and a 0.9% rise in industrial production against a 0.6% rise previously.


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Analysts at BNP Paribas said in a note to investors on Wednesday that a 0.9% rise would imply an increase in capitalization to 72.8%, the highest reading since November 2008. "A number of sectors appear to have worked off excess inventories, allowing firms to ramp up production," the analysts said.

On the corporate side, shares in Deere & Co. /quotes/comstock/13*!de/quotes/nls/de (DE 53.78, +0.67, +1.26%) jumped 7.8% in pre-market trading after the farming and construction equipment manufacturer posted a surprise 19% rise in earnings that easily beat market expectations and also lifted its profit forecast for the year.

Whole Foods Market /quotes/comstock/15*!wfmi/quotes/nls/wfmi (WFMI 30.52, +0.77, +2.59%) was another big gainer in pre-market trading, rising 8.6% after it reported a 71% rise in profit and boosting its 2010 financial targets.

Toyota /quotes/comstock/13*!tm/quotes/nls/tm (TM 76.01, -1.04, -1.35%) could also be in focus after saying Wednesday that it will establish a global quality-control task force to be headed by company president Akio Toyoda that will seek to bolster its product.

In separate news, Toyota may also halt production at its U.K. factory Burnaston, near Derby, owing to collapsing sales amid the company's recall crisis. The London Times said it may also shut two U.S. plants for 14 days from next month and is reviewing production at European factories.

A handful of other companies are due to report earnings before the bell, including Chesapeake Energy /quotes/comstock/13*!chk/quotes/nls/chk (CHK 25.83, +0.87, +3.49%) .

In Europe markets on Wednesday, banks continued to provide a bounce, led by shares of French banking group BNP Paribas, which said it swung to a fourth-quarter net profit. ING /quotes/comstock/13*!ing/quotes/nls/ing (ING 8.96, +0.22, +2.52%) also narrowed its fourth-quarter loss.

Bank of England policy makers voted unanimously to put the central bank's 200 billion pound ($313.5 billion) program of bond purchases on hold earlier this month, although the decision was "finely balanced" for some members of the Monetary Policy Committee, according to minutes of the meeting released Wednesday.

Asia stocks rallied, with resource shares rising sharply on higher commodity prices, while a weaker yen boosted Japanese exporters.

Crude-oil prices were up 61 cents to $77.62 a barrel and gold futures gained $3.9 to $1,123.70 an ounce. The euro was slightly weaker against the dollar, at $1.3729.

Barbara Kollmeyer is an editor for MarketWatch in Madrid.

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