- Pre-Market Indications

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Indications: U.S. stock futures point higher after housing data

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By Barbara Kollmeyer & Kate Gibson, MarketWatch

NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- U.S. stock market futures were pointing to another day of gains for Wall Street on Wednesday, buoyed by strong overseas markets, as early economic data on the U.S. housing market offered reason for cheer.

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.

Stock indexes added to early gains after the government reported new home construction rebounded in January. The Commerce Department also revised its December count higher.

"We're in good shape on housing starts and building permits. We don't want this number to be too robust, since we don't want too much inventory," said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Jefferies & Co.

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 39 points, or 0.4%, to 10,280, while those for the S&P 500 rose 5.8 points, or 0.5% to 1,099. Futures for the Nasdaq 100 rose 8.5 points, or 0.5%, to 1,807.75.

Separately, the Labor Department estimated prices of imported goods jumped 1.4% in January, led by higher prices for gas and oil.

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 10,296, +26.83, +0.26%) 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 2,218, +3.33, +0.15%) rose 1.4% and the S&P 500 /quotes/comstock/21z!i1:in\x (SPX 1,097, +2.34, +0.21%) climbed 1.8%, with energy a key gainer owing to rallying oil prices.

Later data for Wednesday includes 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 56.47, +2.69, +5.00%) jumped 7.3% 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 33.91, +3.39, +11.11%) was another big gainer in pre-market trading, rising 7.1% after it reported a 71% rise in profit and boosting its 2010 financial targets.

Toyota /quotes/comstock/13*!tm/quotes/nls/tm (TM 73.26, -2.75, -3.62%) 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 25.81, -0.02, -0.08%) .

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 9.28, +0.32, +3.57%) 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 38 cents to $77.39 a barrel and gold futures gained $2.2 to $1,122 an ounce. The euro was slightly weaker against the dollar, at $1.3719.

Barbara Kollmeyer is an editor for MarketWatch in Madrid. Kate Gibson is a reporter for MarketWatch, based in New York.

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