Stock Futures Rise Ahead of Manufacturing Data


NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- U.S. futures were rising Thursday as a euro area meeting kicked off and investors awaited further domestic economic data.

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were up 41 points, or 39 points above fair value, at 12,978. Futures for the S&P 500 were up 4.3 points, or 4.2 points above fair value, at 1364. Futures for the Nasdaq were up 12 points, or 12 points above fair value, at 2635.

Initial jobless claims continue to stabilize and show improvement in the U.S. jobs market. Claims ticked in 2000 lower at 351,000 in the week ended Feb. 25, in line with a poll by Thomson Reuters.

Personal income rose 0.3% in January, adding to a 0.5% increase in December. Economist had expected a 0.4% rise. Meanwhile, the Commerce Department also said that personal consumption rose 0.2% in January after staying put in December.

The Institute for Supply Management releases its manufacturing index at 10 a.m. The index probably rose to 54.5 in February from 54.1 in the prior month,

The Commerce Department's reading on construction spending probably ticked 1% higher in January, adding to a 1.5% rise the prior month.

Stocks were poised to open March with more gains after February closed with the Dow up 6% and the S&P 500 up 8.6% so far in 2012. In the prior session, the market finished lower after Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke suggested that the economy didn't warrant further economic stimulus.

"The market is headed for a breather period after a very good start to the year," said Tom Villalta, lead portfolio manager with Jones Villalta Asset Management. "We're going to see a fair amount of volatility from now until mid-April," he added, explaining that first quarter earnings would likely be the next major catalyst for the market.

In Europe, a two-day summit kicked off at which eurozone leaders will discuss how to increase the region's bailout fund. The meeting comes after international creditors at a G20 meeting put pressure on Europe to increase its own funding before asking for additional outside resources. After the summit wraps up Friday, European Union leaders are expected to finalize Greece's $173 billion aid package, according to Bloomberg.

Earlier Thursday, borrowing costs fell at a Spanish bond auction, the first since the European Central Bank loaned billions of euros to the region's financial system. The country paid a 2.07% yield on the two-year bond, whose yield broke above 6% back in November.

Germany's DAX was up 0.66% while London's FTSE was down 0.66%. Japan's Nikkei Average settled down 0.16% and Hong Kong's Hang Seng was down 1.35%.

In corporate news, Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Finisar ( FNSR) reported non-GAAP earnings of $21.9 million, or 23 cents a share, in the three months ended Jan. 29, up slightly from an equivalent profit of $21.5 million, or 23 cents a share, in the second quarter ended in October. Revenue totaled $243 million in the latest quarter, up 0.6% from $241.5 million in the second quarter. The average estimate of analysts polled by Thomson Reuters was for earnings of 22 cents a share in the third quarter on revenue of $245 million. Shares were dropping 8.8% to $18.50 in premarket trading Thursday.

Pet products retailer PetSmart ( PETM) reported fourth-quarter profit of $102 million, or 91 cents a share on sales of $1.64 billion, beating the average analyst estimate of earnings of 90 cents a share on sales of $1.62 billion. The company is forecasting 2012 earnings of $3.02 to $3.16 a share, above consensus projections of $2.54 a share according to a Thomson Reuters poll. Total sales growth should come in between 7.5% to 8.5%, which is essentially in line with estimates. Shares were falling 1.8% to $54.75.

Fast-food chain Wendy's ( WEN) has reported fourth-quarter income from continuing operations of $4.3 million, or 4 cents a share on revenue of $615 million. The Wall consensus predicted earnings of 3 cents a share on revenue of $609.1 million. Shares were rising 1.4% to $5.14.

Bank of America ( BAC) plans to introduce a monthly fee for customers with basic checking accounts unless they agree to bank online, buy more products or maintain certain balances, according to The Wall Street Journal . Bank of America pilot programs in Arizona, Georgia and Massachusetts now are experimenting with charging $6 to $9 a month for an "Essentials" account, the newspaper said, which cited a memo distributed to employees. Last fall, the bank pulled back from introducing a new $5 debit-card charge after customers criticized the move. Shares were up 0.6% to $8.02.

Carmakers such as Ford ( F) and General Motors ( GM) are expected to announce February sales on Thursday. Ford shares were up 0.2% to $12.41.

April oil futures were up 15 cents to $107.22 a barrel. In other commodities, April gold futures were up 5 cents to $1711.80 an ounce.

The dollar index was 0.1% lower. The benchmark 10-year Treasury was down 14/32, pushing the yield to 2.024%.

-- Written by Chao Deng in New York.

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