MarketWatch.com - Pre-Market Indications

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Indications: U.S. futures edge up along with retail sales

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By Barbara Kollmeyer and Kate Gibson, MarketWatch

NEW YORK (MarketWatch) â€" U.S. stock futures were mildly higher on Tuesday after economic reports had retail sales and producer prices rising a bit more than expected in November.

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average /quotes/comstock/21b!f:dj\h11 (DJH11 11,430, +64.00, +0.56%)  rose 16 points to 11,382, and S&P 500 index futures /quotes/comstock/21m!f:sp\h11 (SPH11 1,240, +4.20, +0.34%)  gained 2.3 points to 1,238.5.

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Nasdaq 100 futures /quotes/comstock/21m!f:nd\h11 (NDH11 2,218, +7.00, +0.32%)  added 2.50 points to 2,213.

The Commerce Department reported U.S. retail sales increased 0.8% in November, up for a fifth consecutive month.

“The question though that today’s figures don’t answer is at what margin the sales were made in the context of a highly promotional environment,” noted Peter Boockvar, equity strategist at Miller Tabak.

And, the Labor Department said U.S. wholesale costs also climbed in November, up 0.8%.

Shares of Best Buy Co. Inc. /quotes/comstock/13*!bby/quotes/nls/bby (BBY 35.38, -6.32, -15.16%)  were off 13% in premarket trade after the retailer reported disappointing quarterly sales.

Investors were also waiting on a decision on monetary policy from the U.S. Federal Open Market Committee due at 2:15 p.m. Eastern time.

“On the surface, nothing should really change dramatically because we’ve already had the decision on QE2 [a second round of quantitative easing], but at the same time, you need to be sensitive to any shifts in the language of the accompanying statement,” said Joel Kruger, currency strategist with Daily FX.

“Any sort of optimism suggesting that economic conditions are improving will have an impact on the market ... in favor of the U.S. dollar,” said Kruger. “That would probably weigh on equities.”

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Data on October business inventories are also due, at 10 a.m. Eastern.

U.S. stocks narrowed gains into the close Monday as markets kept a close watch on a tax-cut vote that eventually cleared a key Senate hurdle. Those gains were underpinned by relief after China refrained from raising interest rates despite strong inflation data.

On Monday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average /quotes/comstock/10w!i:dji/delayed (DJIA 11,494, +65.77, +0.58%)  closed up 0.2%, while the Nasdaq /quotes/comstock/10y!i:comp (COMP 2,634, +9.55, +0.36%)  fell 0.5%.

On the corporate front, shares of Amgen Inc. /quotes/comstock/15*!amgn/quotes/nls/amgn (AMGN 55.88, +1.77, +3.28%)  gained 3% in premarket trading. The biotechnology firm said late Monday that a study of its bone drug Xgeva showed it helped prostate-cancer patients live longer without the disease spreading to their bones.

Shares of drug giant Pfizer Inc. /quotes/comstock/13*!pfe/quotes/nls/pfe (PFE 17.22, +0.03, +0.17%)  may see active trade Tuesday after the company raised its first-quarter dividend by about 11% to 20 cents a share.

Real-estate investment trust HCP Inc. /quotes/comstock/13*!hcp/quotes/nls/hcp (HCP 33.75, +1.23, +3.78%)  said it will buy all of the real-estate assets of privately owned nursing-home operator HCR ManorCare Inc. for $6.1 billion in a cash-and-stock deal.

European stocks traded mostly lower after six consecutive sessions of gains. Read more about Europe Markets.

In Asia, stocks advanced, with South Korean shares posting their highest close in more than three years. Read more about Asia Markets.

The dollar index /quotes/comstock/11j!i:dxy0 (DXY 79.32, +0.03, +0.04%) , which tracks the performance of the greenback against a basket of other major currencies, edged slightly lower to 79.235.

January crude-oil futures fell 39 cents to $88.22 a barrel, while gold futures dropped below the $1,400-an-ounce mark. Gold for February delivery slipped $1.90 to $1,396.10 an ounce.

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

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