Updated from 7:09 a.m. EDTPremarket futures were pointing to a higher open for stocks in New York Thursday as the prospect of a quick bailout for financial firms trumped a gloomy earnings forecast from General Electric ( GE) and discouraging economic data. Futures for the S&P 500 were up 13 points at 1206 and were 19 points ahead of fair value. Nasdaq futures were gaining 9.8 points at 1682 and were 12 points above fair value. On Wednesday, the three major indices finished narrowly mixed after a day of erratic trading. Investors were focused on Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's $700 billion bailout plan for the financial sector. Speaking Wednesday evening in Washington, D.C., President Bush called for a quick approval of the Treasury's plan and warned the economy would face a recession if the package were not approved. Bush called an emergency meeting with presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama, as well as certain members of Congress, to work out a plan to pass the bill. After Bush's speech, Rep. Barney Frank, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, told CNBC that he believed the bill would pass. Back on Wall Street, harried bank Washington Mutual ( WM) was approaching private equity companies, including Carlyle Group and Blackstone ( BX), about a potential takeover, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal Thursday. Industrial conglomerate General Electric lowered its third-quarter profit forecast and suspended its stock-buyback program, citing weakness in the financial markets. Elsewhere, shareholders in Delta ( DAL) and Northwest ( NWA) are scheduled to vote on a merger between the two airlines, according to a report by the Associated Press.
As for corporate earnings, athletic apparel maker Nike ( NKE) reported first-quarter profit that increased year over year and bested the Street's estimates. Looking at the day's economic data, the Census Bureau reported August durable-goods orders fell by 4.5%, a far wider decline than the 1.3% drop expected by economists and down from a 0.8% increase in July. The Department of Labor reported that jobless claims for the week ended Sept. 20 came in at 493,000, ahead of analyst forecast of 450,000 and up from 461,000 in July. A bit later, the Census bureau also is slated to report on new-home sales for August. The price of crude oil was down $1.85 to $103.88 a barrel. Gold was down $3 to $892 an ounce. Longer-term U.S. Treasury securities were rising in price. The 10-year was up 10/32 to yield 3.78% and the 30-year was gaining 1-2/32, yielding 4.35%. The dollar was weakening vs. its major foreign competitors. Overseas, European exchanges such as the FTSE in London and the DAX in Frankfurt were gaining. In Asia, Japan's Nikkei and Hong Kong's Hang Seng finished with losses.