MarketWatch.com - Pre-Market Indications

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Indications: U.S. futures point to mild gains with data on tap

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By Barbara Kollmeyer, MarketWatch

MADRID (MarketWatch) â€" U.S. stock futures were pointing to a mildly higher start for Wall Street on Thursday, with weekly jobless data expected to be a focus for investors hoping to build on the prior session’s gains.

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 29 points, or 0.3%, to 11,397, while those for the S&P 500 rose 4.1 points, or 0.3%, to 1,232.80.

Futures for the Nasdaq 100 index rose 4.75 points, or 0.2%, to 2,205.25.

Manoj Ladwa, senior trader at ETX Capital, said futures are off sharply from earlier highs.

“Although stocks are going up, they seem to be rising on shrinking volume, which is rarely a good indicator. Therefore, the equity market could get quite choppy going into Christmas and the New Year,” he said in emailed comments.

Data will be a key focus for investors on Thursday, with weekly jobless claims at due 8:30 a.m. Eastern time and October wholesale inventories at 10 a.m. Eastern.

A survey of economists by MarketWatch was forecasting jobless claims to dip to 425,000 from a prior 436,000.

“They are expected to come in lower, which would be a positive, but given the shocker we had with the NFPR [nonfarm payrolls] and unemployment figures last week, traders seem wary of any negative surprises,” added Ladwa.

U.S. stocks closed slightly higher on Wednesday, in a late turnaround owing to a rally in financial stocks and hopes over the effect of tax cuts.

That helped ease worries about a selloff in government bonds.

On the company front, Brown-Forman Corp. /quotes/comstock/13*!bf.b/quotes/nls/bf.b (BF.B 68.83, +0.84, +1.24%)  is expected to release quarterly results ahead of the opening bell.

In preopening trade, shares of U.S.-listed ASML Holding NV /quotes/comstock/15*!asml/quotes/nls/asml (ASML 35.17, +0.42, +1.21%)  rose 5% after the Dutch chip-equipment group lifted its forecast for fourth-quarter bookings, saying it sees “stronger-than-expected demand” for lithography equipment and better demand as well for DRAM lithography.

Shares of Youku.com Inc. /quotes/comstock/13*!yoku (YOKU 33.44, +20.64, +161.25%)  rose 5.7% in pre-opening trade. The Chinese company that is likened to Amazon.com saw a strong debut in U.S. markets on Thursday. Its shares, priced at $12.80, more than doubled to close at $33.44. See appetite strong for Chinese IPOs

Stocks in Europe were mostly higher on Thursday, helped by gains for ASML and other chip-related stocks, along with financial stocks. Auto stocks were weak, helping to drag the German DAX index into the red. See Europe Markets.

Asia had a mixed session, with a sharp selloff for the India Sensex. Investors fretted about concern that the U.S. dollar would strengthen and about damped fund inflows tied to forecasts for a stronger rupee. See Asia Markets.

Seoul stocks finished at a three-year high after the Bank of Korea left interest rates unchanged, while Sydney shares hit a four-week high on a strong jobs report.

Gold futures fell 50 cents to $1,382 an ounce, while crude-oil futures rose 32 cents to $88.60 a barrel as the dollar pulled back some against major rivals.

Barbara Kollmeyer is an editor for MarketWatch in Madrid.

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