U.S. Futures Follow Overseas Markets Higher

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Stock futures were pointing to a decidedly higher open for the major market averages Wednesday after strong economic indicators out of China and Australia helped buoy markets overseas.

And futures held on to those gains even after a labor market report showed the first private payroll decline there since January.

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were up by 96 points at 10,102 and were 96.28 points above fair value. Futures for the S&P 500 were ahead by 11.50 points at 1059.8 and were 11.52 points above fair value, and Nasdaq futures were gaining 23.50 points and were 24.92 points above fair value.

Stocks hemmed and hawed throughout the Tuesday session, only to finish flat on the day following a mixed batch of data and the release of minutes from the Federal Open Market Committee's most recent policy-making meeting. The Dow also set a dubious milestone, turning in its worst August performance since 2001.

But Wednesday brought with it improving news from overseas. According to The Associated Press, the Chinese factory sector rose for the first time in four months, while Australia's economy raced higher in the second quarter, notching its fastest growth rate since 2007.

The string of morning economic indicators here in the U.S. got off to a weak start with a prelude to Friday's highly anticipated government jobs report. Payroll processor Automatic Data Processing ( ADP) said private payrolls shed 10,000 jobs in August.

Wall Street economists had believed payrolls would pick up a modest 13,000 jobs, according to Briefing.com. The reported July gain was also scaled back in the report's revisions, now showing private managers added 37,000 positions instead of the gain of 42,000 originally reported.

Earlier Wednesday, Challenger, Gray & Christmas said announced layoffs were down 17% this month, making it the lowest monthly tally in over a decade.

After a Tuesday report showed that factory activity slowed throughout the Midwest, a national gauge to be released at 10 a.m. ET is projected to show a similar trend. The Institute for Supply Management's manufacturing index is projected to land at 52.9 for August, down from the 55.5 the month before.

The Commerce Department will also release its construction spending stats at the same time, which are expected to show a 0.7% decrease in July. Meanwhile, investors will be sifting through auto and truck sales data throughout the day.

Deal speculation continued percolating today after The Wall Street Journal said several private-equity shops have been in talks to buy Burger King ( BKC).

BP's ( BP) ongoing fund-raising efforts to pay for costs related to the Gulf oil spill continued Wednesday after the integrated oil operation said it sold a Malaysian ethylene and polyethylene unit for $363 million.

Apple ( AAPL) will be hosting a product unveiling event in San Francisco on Wednesday, where it's expected to show off a fresh slate of iPod devices.

Microsoft ( MSFT) is reportedly in search of a partner in China to help the firm break through in the country's internet search market. Microsoft's CEO in China told The Wall Street Journal that the software maker is planning to invest $100 million in companies there.

Mining equipment manufacturer Joy Global ( JOYG) offered up a hopeful sign after raising its full-year guidance. Third-quarter profit slid to $1.13 a share, which still bested estimates, though sales landed at a lighter-than-expected $850 million. But orders jumped 51% during the quarter.

Vivendi , the France-based media conglomerate, also raised its 2010 guidance, though second-quarter earnings fell more than 3%.

In other earnings news, book retailer Borders ( BGP) and ketchup maker H.J. Heinz ( HNZ) are scheduled to release quarterly profit news this morning.

Weekly crude stockpile data from the government's Energy Information Agency is due out at 10:30 a.m. ET. Analysts surveyed by Platts believe crude stockpiles rose by 1.9 million barrels last week, though the industry's American Petroleum Institute said late Tuesday that crude inventories climbed higher by 4.76 million barrels, according to Bloomberg.

In commodity markets, crude oil for October delivery was adding 35 cents to trade at $72.27 a barrel, and the December gold contract was trading higher by $5.10 at $1,255.40 an ounce.

The benchmark 10-year Treasury note was down 17/32, boosting the yield to 2.530%.

Meanwhile, the dollar was trading lower against a basket of currencies, with the dollar index down by 0.8%.

Overseas, Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.4% higher, while Japan's Nikkei gained 1.2%. The FTSE in London was ahead by 1.4%, and the DAX in Frankfurt was improving by 1.2%.

--Written by Sung Moss in New York.

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