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Stock Futures Rise; Retail Sales Inch Higher

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Stock futures were pointing to a higher open on Wall Street Wednesday as General Electric (GE) shares advanced but they lost a bit of steam following the release of data on U.S. January retail sales.

General Electric shares were gaining nearly 3% in premarket trading as Comcast (CMCSA) reached a deal to buy GE's remaining 49% stake in NBCUniversal for $16.7 billion.

Comcast also raised its quarterly dividend by 20% and reported an 18% increase in fourth-quarter earnings. Comcast shares were jumping more than 8%.

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were up 11 points, or 15.30 points above fair value, at 13,984. Futures for the S&P 500 up 2.25 points, or 2.77 points above fair value, at 1518. Futures for the Nasdaq were up 8 points, or 8.78 points above fair value, at 2768.

Major U.S. stock averages ended mixed Tuesday.

President Barack Obama delivered lines Tuesday night in his State of the Union address about how the country has emerged from the rubble of economic crisis, his hope to allow families to more easily refinance their homes and the need for deficit reduction, among other economic issues.

And yet Obama didn't once mention Wall Street, banks or finance.

The Census Bureau reported that retail sales rose by an as-expected 0.1% in January after increasing 0.5% in December. Excluding the auto component, retail sales increased 0.2%, compared with a 0.3% gain in December. That was a bigger increase than the 0.1% rise expected by economists.

"With the payroll tax cut expiring and marginal tax rates increasing for the first time in decades, retail sales were always thought to suffer and suffer they did," said Dan Greenhaus, chief global strategist at BTIG. "Nothing in these numbers should change anyone's expectation for tepid consumer spending in the first quarter of 2013 and more likely, the first half."

The Census Bureau will report December business inventories numbers at 10 a.m. EST.

At 11:10 a.m., St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank President James Bullard will give a speech on the economy and monetary policy to Arkansas State University's agribusiness conference.

The Nikkei in Japan closed down by 1.04% Wednesday as the yen strengthened. The Hong Kong stock exchange remained closed Wednesday for the lunar new year.

The FTSE in London was up 0.16% and the DAX in Frankfurt was up 0.59% after data showed that eurozone industrial production rose more than economists expected in December.

Eurozone industrial production rose 0.7% in December from the prior month, up for the first time since August, according to Eurostat. That's better than the 0.2% increase registered in a Reuters poll of economists.

Gold for April delivery was down $3.50 at $1,646.10 an ounce at the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange, while March crude oil futures were up 11 cents at $97.62 a barrel.

The benchmark 10-year Treasury was down 8/32, raising the yield to 2.010%. The dollar was down 0.13%, according to the U.S. dollar index.

In corporate news, Cisco Systems (CSCO), the world's largest maker of computer networking equipment, is expected by Wall Street Wednesday to post fiscal second-quarter earnings of 48 cents a share on revenue of $12.1 billion. Shares were up 0.62%.

Cisco reports after Wednesday's closing bell.

In the year-earlier quarter, Cisco earned $2.2 billion, or 40 cents a share, on revenue of $11.5 billion.

Cliffs Natural Resources (CLF) shares were downgraded at Macquarie, Citigroup and Deutsche Bank. The company Tuesday said that it reduced its quarterly cash dividend rate by 76% amid recent commodity price volatility. Shares were plunging more than 12.5%.

Deere (DE) hiked its full-year earnings outlook to $3.3 billion after posting fiscal first-quarter earnings of $1.65 a share on revenue of $7.42 billion. On average, analysts were expecting earnings of $1.40 a share on revenue of $6.72 billion. Shares were down 0.29%.

Dean Foods (DF) said that it expects consolidated operating income growth in the low-to-mid single digits in 2013 as it continues to face "some challenges." The company said its focus on volume, cost and pricing effectiveness has yielded significantly improved results and renewed business momentum, but the fluid milk industry remains competitive and management expects 2013 total fluid milk volume to decline in the low-single digits. Shares were tumbling more than 5%.

Nvidia (NVDA), the graphics chipmaker, is expected by Wall Street to report fourth-quarter earnings of 24 cents a share after the closing bell. Shares were up more than 1%.

Metlife (MET) is expected by Wall Street to earn $1.18 a share in the fourth quarter. The company reports after the close. Shares were up 0.43%.

WellPoint (WLP), the health insurer, announced Tuesday that Joseph Swedish, a veteran hospital executive who has never run a public company, will become its next CEO. Shares were sliding more than 2%.

Swedish comes from Trinity Health, where he was chief executive. He will replace interim CEO John Cannon on March 25.

-- Written by Andrea Tse in New York.

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Andrea Tse.

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