MarketWatch.com - Pre-Market Indications

Friday, March 12, 2010

Indications: U.S. stock futures point higher before retail data

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By Steve Goldstein, MarketWatch

LONDON (MarketWatch) -- U.S. stock futures Friday pointed to an extension of the week's advance ahead of economic reports on retail sales and consumer confidence.

S&P 500 futures rose 2.1 points to 1,148.00 and Nasdaq 100 futures added 1.5 points to 1,924.00. Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 20 points.

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U.S. stocks gained Thursday for the third straight time, led by financials on buyout hopes as well as by a continued advance for firms that are partly owned by the U.S. government. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 44 points, the S&P 500 added 4 points and the Nasdaq Composite climbed 9 points.

Friday's session features two fairly high-profile economic reports, retail sales for February, due at 8:30 a.m. Eastern, and consumer sentiment for March, as well as business inventories for January, which both are due at 10.

"The figures are likely to be distorted by the snowstorms and core sales excluding gasoline and autos are expected to slow versus January, but anecdotal retailer evidence suggests that activity may have held up better than feared," said Lena Komileva, head of Group of Seven market economics at Tullett Prebon.

Also on the economics front, President Obama is due to nominate San Francisco Fed President Janet Yellen as vice chairman of the Federal Reserve, according to a Wall Street Journal report. Yellen has been a strong supporter of Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke's low-interest-rate policy.

"From reading virtually all of her speeches over the last few years and particularly the last few months, it is hard to imagine she would vote to outright tighten monetary policy in 2010 unless economic growth in the second half of the year proves to significantly more robust than the Fed is currently forecasting," said Dan Greenhaus, chief economic strategist at Miller Tabak.

The U.S. dollar traded weaker against major rivals, notably the euro.

Oil futures were stronger, and gold futures added close to $8 an ounce.

The financial sector will be in the spotlight as a court-appointed examiner said demands from J.P. Morgan Chase /quotes/comstock/13*!jpm/quotes/nls/jpm (JPM 43.18, +0.25, +0.58%) and Citi /quotes/comstock/13*!c/quotes/nls/c (C 4.18, +0.22, +5.56%) for collateral helped to drive Lehman Brothers into bankruptcy, as the examiner also detailed a practice at Lehman in which it used repurchase agreements to make it appear that leverage was reduced. See related story.

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Shares of National Semiconductor /quotes/comstock/13*!nsm/quotes/nls/nsm (NSM 14.34, -0.49, -3.30%) rose nearly 2% in pre-market trade after the company reported third-quarter profit more than doubled and predicted a 4% to 8% sequential revenue rise.

Meanwhile, Yara International of Norway formally gave up pursuit of Terra Industries /quotes/comstock/13*!tra/quotes/nls/tra (TRA 46.90, -0.05, -0.11%) , which will accept a bid from CF Industries /quotes/comstock/13*!cf/quotes/nls/cf (CF 100.61, -2.94, -2.84%) instead. Also on the fertilizer front, Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan Corp. /quotes/comstock/13*!pot/quotes/nls/pot (POT 116.93, -1.32, -1.12%) upped its earnings guidance on a sharp rebound in demand.

Terra shares fell 1.9%, CF shares dropped over 6%, while Potash shares jumped close to 8%.

Asian shares ended mixed Friday, with Japanese exporter stocks helping Tokyo extend gains, while Chinese stocks declined on concerns more policy-tightening measures may be forthcoming to ease rising inflation.

In early afternoon Europe trade, markets were higher.

Steve Goldstein is MarketWatch's London bureau chief.


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