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Stock futures rise, S&P's all-time intraday high in view



By Ryan Vlastelica
02 April 2013 @ 10:16 pm AEST

NEW YORK -

Stock index futures rose on Tuesday, pointing to a rebound from the previous session and tracking a rise in European equities.

The gain in futures puts the S&P 500 again within striking distance of its all-time intraday high of 1,576.09, an important psychological level for investors. Last week, the benchmark index set an all-time closing high.

While moves may be limited this week ahead of the monthly payrolls report on Friday, investors will be looking to the latest economic data for signs of economic strength.

February factory orders are scheduled for release at 10 a.m. EDT and are seen rising 2.9 percent, compared with a 2 percent drop in the previous month.

The Institute for Supply Management-New York's March index of regional business activity is due at 9:45 a.m. Car companies will report March sales on Tuesday, and a Reuters poll forecast total vehicle sales at 15.32 million last month.

"We've had significant pockets of strength in the data, but also some weakness. If we can see some broad-based expansion of growth that would be very beneficial for markets," said Oliver Pursche, president of Gary Goldberg Financial Services in Suffern, New York.

S&P 500 futures rose 7.2 points and were above fair value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the contract. Dow Jones industrial average futures added 59 points and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 19.25 points.

A weak reading on manufacturing sparked a decline in Monday's session, though other indicators have pointed to a strengthening economy and helped push both the Dow and S&P to record highs last week.

Telecommunication shares will be in focus. Verizon Communications and AT&T have been working together on a breakup bid for British mobile operator Vodafone , according to the Financial Times' Alphaville blog.

Verizon and AT&T, both Dow components, were not active in premarket trading, but U.S. shares of Vodafone gained 4.7 percent to $29.67 before the bell. The stock was one of the biggest boosts among European shares <.FTEU3>, which rose 1 percent.

European shares bounced back after a two-week slide and with a blue chip index breaking above a resistance level, as the M&A activity helped lift sentiment.

The S&P is up 9.5 percent so far this year while the Dow is up more than 11 percent. While investors view market momentum as positive, many are also calling for a pullback given the size and swiftness of recent gains.

"We take money off the table on days when we see rallies of about 1 percent," said Pursche. "We think things are getting overstretched."

In company news, BGC Partners late Monday said it would sell its eSpeed platform to Nasdaq OMX Group for $750 million in cash. Shares of BGC soared 40 percent to $5.40 before the bell.

Healthcare stocks will also be in focus as planned cuts in U.S. government payments for private Medicare Advantage insurers did not materialize. Humana , which derives about two-thirds of its revenue from Medicare Advantage business, soared 9.6 percent to $82.20 in premarket trading.

Apple Inc edged lower before the market's open. On Monday, the stock was the biggest drag on both the S&P 500 and Nasdaq 100 <.NDX> after Fidelity Contrafund, a $92 billion fund that is the largest active shareholder in Apple, reported that it cut its stake in the iPhone maker by 10 percent during the first two months of 2013.

(Editing by W Simon and Kenneth Barry)

Copyright 2009 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.

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