Premarket futures were hinting at a higher open for stocks in New York Thursday, following a report that the Treasury Department may take equity positions in U.S. banks. An encouraging earnings report from tech bellwether IBM ( IBM) also was bolstering sentiment. Futures for the S&P 500 were up 23 points at 1004 and were 14 points ahead of fair value. Nasdaq futures were better by 40 points at 1360 and were 19 points above fair value. Stocks on Wednesday traded chaotically before closing with losses after the Federal Reserve and central banks from other countries issued a coordinated cut in interest rates to alleviate the credit crunch. Ahead of the new day's trading, The New York Times reported that the Treasury may take ownership positions in U.S. banks to improve confidence in the financial system. The U.K. has pursued a similar plan by taking partial national ownership in Royal Bank of Scotland ( RBS) and Barclays ( BCS). Following its announcement earlier this week that it would set up a facility to buy commercial paper from U.S. businesses, the Fed said it would enlist Pimco, a unit of Allianz ( AZ), to help it manage the large amount of debt it intends to buy. Separately, the Fed said it would grant insurance company AIG ( AIG) up to $37.8 billion in exchange for fixed-income securities. The cash infusion comes on top of the $85 billion already lent out in September to keep the company from going bankrupt. Among other insurers, MetLife ( MET) has recently discussed a potential merger with Hartford Financial ( HIG), according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. The report said the discussions didn't lead to a deal, but that they indicate the strain the credit crunch has exacted from insurance firms.
Elsewhere, the Journal reported that National City ( NCC) was in discussions with other banks, perhaps PNC Bank ( PNC) or Bank of Nova Scotia ( BNS) about potentially selling itself. Looking at corporate earnings, IBM, a component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, preannounced its third-quarter earnings, saying it made a profit that increased year over year and topped analyst estimates. In commodities, crude oil recently was up 41 cents at $89.36. Gold was declining $13.70 to $892.80. Longer-dated U.S. Treasury securities were experiencing mixed action. The 10-year note was down 21/32 to yield 3.72%, and the 30-year was up 1-8/32, yielding 3.98%. The dollar was higher vs. the yen and pound but weakening against the euro. Overseas, European indices, such as the FTSE in London and the DAX in Frankfurt, were mostly higher. Asia was mixed, as the Nikkei in Japan closed on the downside while the Hang Seng in Hong Kong finished with gains.