Stock Futures Rise as Investors Eye U.S. Consumer Data

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- U.S. stock futures were pointing to a higher open Friday as investors digested figures on inflation and production, and awaited a report on consumer sentiment.

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were up 37 points, or 24.2 point above fair value, at 13,206. Futures for the S&P 500 were up 4 points, or 2.5 points above fair value, at 1399 after the index closed above 1400 for the first time in almost four years on Thursday. Futures for the Nasdaq were up 7 points, or 8 points above fair value, at 2718.

Stocks are coming of a strong winning streak with the Dow having posted seven straight sessions of gains. In the prior session, encouraging economic reports from the U.S. helped equity markets extend their rally.

The Labor Department reported that its consumer price index rose 0.4% in February, slightly higher than the expected 0.2% gain according to Thomson Reuters, following a 0.2% increase in the prior month. Excluding gas and food prices, the core figure inched up 0.1%, easing fears of inflationary pressure outside of energy prices. Economists had forecast a 0.2% gain in prices.

"Gasoline was actually responsible for 80% of the headline increase... food at home, our proxy for supermarket prices, was unchanged for the second month in a row," noted Dan Greenhaus, chief global strategist with BTIG. "As a result of the data, the year-over-year change in core prices slowed to 2.2%, the first decline in the year-over-year rate after not decreasing in fifteen consecutive months."

The Federal Reserve reported that industrial production in February stayed put when economists had expected a 0.4% improvement. January's figures however were upwardly revised to 0.4% after it was originally reported to have been unchanged. The Fed's reading on capacity utilization stayed about the same at a level of 78.7%.

At 9:55 a.m., a measure of consumer sentiment by the University of Michigan probably rose to a level of 76 in March after a prior reading of 75.3.

Germany's DAX was up 0.29% on Friday while London's FTSE gained 0.31%. Hong Kong's Hang Seng closed down 0.17% while the Nikkei Average in Japan finished up 0.06%.

In corporate news, ReneSola ( SOL) reported a fourth-quarter loss of 21 cents a share on revenue of $187.7 million compared with the average analyst estimate of loss of 30 cents a share on revenue of $137.8 million. Shares were surging 15.9% to $2.85 in premarket trading Friday.

United Parcel Service ( UPS) said Friday it was in "constructive" talks to buy TNT Express, its Dutch rival. UPS said it plans a formal bid by May 12. UPS last month offered to buy TNT, the second-largest express delivery company in Europe, for €9 a share, or $6.4 billion, but the offer was rejected.

Banks including Barclays PLC's Barclays Capital unit, Credit Suisse ( CS) and Goldman Sachs ( GS) are among the banks interested in buying American International Group's ( AIG) complex mortgage-backed assets tied to the insurance company's bailout, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The face value of the assets is $47 billion, the newspaper said, and are held by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, which acquired the assets as part of the $182 billion bailout of AIG in 2008.

April oil futures were 15 cents to $105.26. In other commodities, April gold futures were up $6.10 to $1653 an ounce.

The dollar index was 0.25% higher. The benchmark 10-year Treasury was down 8/32 pushing the yield to 2.308%.

-- Written by Chao Deng in New York.

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