Stock Futures Gain Ahead of Housing Data


NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- U.S. futures were rising Monday after a report showed improvement in German business confidence and ahead of domestic home sales data.

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were up 80 points, or 62.2 points above fair value, at 13,009. Futures for the S&P 500 were up 8.9 points, or 11.5 points above fair value, at 1402. Futures for the Nasdaq were up 17.8 points, or 22.3 points above fair value, at 2747.

The market is coming off its worst week of the year, with the S&P 500 and Dow losing 0.5% and 1.2%, respectively, last week. However, stocks are still on track to post their best first quarter in 14 years. With one week left to the quarter, the S&P 500 is up 11.1%, the Dow is up 7.1%, and the Nasdaq is up 17.8% year to date.

The week is fairly full in terms of economic reports, with investors getting data on the housing market and a look at consumer confidence and personal spending levels later in the week. At 10 a.m., the National Association of Realtors is expected to report that pending home sales rose 1% in February, after a 2% gain in January. The estimate is based on polls by Thomson Reuters.

Investors will be digesting regional reports from Dallas and Chicago. The Chicago Federal Reserve reported that its national activity index, which weighs production, income, employment, personal consumption and more, fell to a level of -0.09 in February, from 0.33 in January, which was its highest level since May 2010. A manufacturing survey from the Dallas Fed is expected at 10:30 a.m.

On Monday, Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke warned of the effects of long term employment, saying that policymakers must monitor whether structural or cyclical factors are pushing up unemployment. "If progress in reducing unemployment is too slow, the long-term unemployed will see their skills and labor force attachment atrophy further, possibly converting a cyclical problem into a structural one," he explained.

In Europe, a report showed that business confidence in Germany rose unexpectedly in March. The Ifo institute's business climate index rose to 109.8 from a revised 109.7 when economists had expected the level to stay unchanged.

On Monday, Germany's DAX was up 1.1% while London's FTSE was up 0.75%. The Hong Kong Hang Seng closed flat while the Nikkei Average in Japan edged up 0.07% overnight.

In corporate news, Yahoo! ( YHOO) appointed three directors to its board, setting up for a proxy fight with Third Point LLC, one of its largest shareholders. Hedge fund Third Point, which owns a 5.8% stake in Yahoo!, last week launched a bid to gain four seats on the Internet company's board.

AOL ( AOL) hired Evercore Partners to find a buyer for its more than 800 patents and explore other strategic options, Bloomberg reported, citing people with knowledge of the situation. Evercore is trying to help AOL wring value from a patent portfolio, which some estimate can yield more than $1 billion in licensing income. Private-equity firms, including Providence Equity Partners, TPG Capital and Silver Lake, have approached AOL about taking the company private, yet the overtures haven't resulted in a deal, said the people.

Amgen ( AMGN) said a Phase 1b clinical study of its experimental AMG 145 drug showed that multiple doses of the treatment reduced bad cholesterol by as much as 81% in patients already taking statins, presenting it as a possible threat to a similar drug in development at Regeneron Pharmaceuticals ( REGN). Amgen shares were rising 1.7% to $67.78 in premarket trading Monday.

Roche, the Swiss drug giant, extended its $5.7 billion cash bid for Illumina ( ILMN), the U.S. gene-sequencing company, for a second time. Roche is offering $44.50 a share for Illumina. The acceptance period was extended to April 20. Illumina continues to reject the bid.

JPMorgan Chase's ( JPM) chief executive officer of the Asia Pacific region, Gaby Abdelnour, is stepping down to pursue personal interests. Shares were adding 1.2% to $45.70.

May oil futures were rising 18 cents to $107.05. In other commodities, April gold futures were adding $14.90 to $1677.30 an ounce.

The dollar index was 0.3% higher. The benchmark 10-year Treasury was down 6/32 pushing the yield to 2.259%.

-- Written by Chao Deng in New York.

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Chao Deng.

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