Updated from 8:03 a.m. EDTBulls were again in charge in the Thursday premarket session as Wall Street looked to build on the previous two days' momentum. A pair of economic reports did nothing to sap the positive sentiment. Index futures recently showed the S&P 500 set for a 6-point gain and the Nasdaq 100 trading about 9 points above fair value. The Dow is currently up more than 200 points over the last two days, in both cases adding the majority of the upside in the final 30 minutes. Stocks were charged Wednesday by the Federal Reserve's beige book survey, which found U.S. economic growth "subpar" since April. Investors interpreted the report as raising the likelihood of a 13th interest rate cut at the FOMC's June 24-25 meeting. "The gains are sentiment-driven, with investors betting this rally will be sustainable," said Jacques Vanderborght, fund manager at Petercam. "Cash is being reinvested, and even from a technical point of view, the market has broken out of any downward trend." "After the beige book, the sentiment did not worsen, despite weak figures. The market is saying a cut is more likely to come, of either 25 or 50 basis points," Vanderborght said. According to the Commerce Department, retail sales rose 0.1% in May following a revised 0.3% gain in April. The May increase was also 0.1% excluding autos, and was 0.6% excluding autos and gasoline. Initial claims for unemployment benefits fell 17,000 to 430,000. Treasuries were higher, with the yield on the 10-year note down 2 basis points at 3.19%. Crude oil prices were lower. The dollar was little changed against the Japanese yen and the euro, despite Treasury Secretary John Snow's comments in support of a strong-dollar policy. Among the early movers in the premarket session, Intermune ( ITMN) was down $7.10, or 28%, to $18 after predicting a wide sales miss late Wednesday. The biotech cited weaker-than-expected sales of its immune system booster Actimmune.
Xerox ( XRX) said it is returning to the market with a $3.1 billion refinancing plan that would replace debt with new stock, bonds and a line of credit. Shares of the company were down 2%, or 20 cents, at $10.50 on Instinet. Investors will be eyeing Oracle's ( ORCL) fiscal fourth-quarter results after the closing bell. The business software maker saw Moody's lower the outlook on its credit rating Wednesday to negative, citing its $5.1 billion bid to acquire rival PeopleSoft ( PSFT). Meanwhile, Merrill Lynch reduced its estimates for PeopleSoft's license revenue on worries the potential merger could disrupt customer relations. Novellus Systems ( NVLS) was downgraded at UBS to reduce from neutral on valuation concerns. Shares of the circuit-etching equipment maker were poised to fall at the open. UBS analysts also lowered their recommendation on drugmaker MedImmune ( MEDI) to neutral from buy, saying the market has already priced in approval for one of its drugs. Overseas markets were higher, with London's FTSE 100 up 0.6% at 4176 and Germany's Xetra DAX rallying 2.1% to 3246. In Asia, Japan's Nikkei closed 0.3% higher at 8918, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 0.8% to 9736. Thursday's session follows a rally on Wednesday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 1.4% to 9183.22, its first close above 9100 since July 1, 2002. The S&P 500 jumped 1.3% to 997.48, nearing the 1000 mark, while the Nasdaq Composite climbed 1.1% to 1646.02.