- Pre-Market Indications

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Indications: U.S. futures point to light gains ahead of data

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By Barbara Kollmeyer, MarketWatch

MADRID (MarketWatch) â€" U.S. stock futures pointed to a slightly higher start for Wall Street with investors focused on housing-price and consumer-confidence data ahead, but volumes are seen thin with many traders still out for the holidays.

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 19 points, or 0.2%, to 11,522, while those for the S&P 500 rose 2.7 points, or 0.2%, to 1,256. Futures for the Nasdaq 100 rose 4 points to 2,234.

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Economic data will return to the fore on Tuesday, with the release of Case-Shiller home prices for October at 9 a.m. and the Conference Board’s consumer- confidence index for December at 10 a.m. Both times are Eastern.

A survey of economists by MarketWatch is forecasting an increase to 56.9 from a prior 54.1 for the confidence index.

“Things are looking up according to the U.S. consumer as the last couple of spending reports can attest to,” said analysts at Saxo Bank on their website. “The University of Michigan Consumer Confidence Sentiment also supports this notion with rising confidence in each of the last two months of the year.”

The analysts added, though, that both measures had been higher earlier in 2010 when they had temporary peaks at 76.0 and 62.7 for the University of Michigan and Conference Board surveys, respectively.

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On Monday, the Dow Industrials lost 18 points, while the Nasdaq Composite and the S&P 500 index rose slightly. The session was marked by low volumes due to the holidays and a blizzard that blanketed the northeastern U.S. and dumped 20 inches on New York City.

Shares of AIG /quotes/comstock/13*!aig/quotes/nls/aig (AIG 59.18, -0.20, -0.34%)  could add to gains after hitting a 52-week high on Monday after the insurer secured $4.3 billion in credit facilities.

Alcatel-Lucent SA /quotes/comstock/13*!alu/quotes/nls/alu (ALU 2.89, +0.03, +1.05%)  could be in focus after the Paris telecommunications group agreed to pay $137 million to settle charges by the Securities and Exchange Commission that it paid bribes to win business in certain emerging markets. The Paris shares rose 1.5% on relief the case was now settled.

Retailers may be on the move in the markets. U.S. consumers spent 5.5% more in the 2010 holiday season than they did a year earlier, buying lots of clothes to counter cold December weather and even big-ticket items like jewelry and luxury goods, according to the SpendingPulse division of MasterCard Advisors. The report measures sales excluding cars for the 50 days from Nov. 5 through Dec. 24.

European stocks rose marginally, after losses in the prior session, but volumes were thin with London markets closed for a bank holiday.

In Asia, Japan stocks were weighed by profit-taking, while securities firms fell in China over the view that officials have now entered into a cycle of rate rises after the weekend tightening measures.

Gold futures for February delivery rose $16 to $1,398.90 an ounce, with copper futures for March delivery at one point topping the prior day’s record closing high of $4.280 a pound in New York. Copper was trading at around that record level on Tuesday.

Crude-oil futures rose 38 cents to $91.38 a barrel.

The dollar hit a three-week low against the Japanese yen, prompting Japanese Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda to complain that recent movements in the yen have been “one-sided,” indicating Japan could again intervene in currency markets.

The dollar last traded down nearly 1% to 81.88 yen. The dollar was off 0.2% against the euro at $1.3264.

Barbara Kollmeyer is an editor for MarketWatch in Madrid.

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