Stock Futures Gain Ground After Alcoa Surprise


NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Stock futures were pointing to a break from five days of losses in the benchmark indices after Alcoa (AA) ushered in earnings season with a surprise profit.

In the single-currency eurozone bloc, Spanish bond yields were stabilizing. The markets were on high alert Tuesday, as yields spiked amid a warning by Spain that its banks may need more capital if the economy there deteriorates further.

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were popping 83 points, or 107.1 points above fair value, at 12,763. Futures for the S&P 500 were advancing 10.4 points, or 13.3 points above fair value, at 1368. Futures for the Nasdaq were adding 18.5 points, or 24.2 points above fair value, at 2716.

Stocks sustained deep losses Tuesday with eurozone worries once again front and center amid growing trepidation over Spain's economic stability.

Alcoa, the aluminum giant, posted a surprise quarterly profit in after the markets closed Tuesday. The first Dow component to report its results each quarter posted first-quarter earnings from continuing operations of $94 million, or 10 cents a share, on revenue of $6.01 billion. The average estimate of analysts polled by Thomson Reuters was for a loss of 4 cents a share on revenue of $5.77 billion.

The company attributed the better-than-expected results to "strong productivity improvements across all businesses, higher realized prices for aluminum, and improved volume and mix." Alcoa also reaffirmed its outlook for 7% growth in global aluminum demand in 2012.

Both Spanish and Italian bond yields were easing Wednesday as the European stock markets regained some composure after their worst one-day drop in more than a month Tuesday. It was the first day of trading after a four-day Easter holiday weekend.

London's FTSE was rising 0.6% and Germany's DAX was gaining 1.2%.

European Union and Spanish officials have been trying to calm the markets by insisting that Spain's economy will not be brought to its knees with the phase-in of austerity measures and won't be next in line to seek money from the strained eurozone bailout fund.

"We have a government in Spain that has taken very strong deficit measures," Benoit Coeure, a European Central Bank executive board member said in a speech in Paris, according to Bloomberg. "All this takes time. The political will is enormous. This is what leads me to say the market conditions are not justified."

"Will the ECB intervene? We have an instrument, the securities markets program, which hasn't been used recently but still exists."

Elsewhere, Japan's Nikkei Average finished lower by 0.8% and Hong Kong's Hang Seng index fell 1.1%.

A tsunami watch was issued Wednesday across the Indian Ocean region after an earthquake, initially measured at 8.9, struck under the sea off the Indonesian province of Aceh. The earthquake quake was felt as far away as Singapore, Thailand, Bangladesh, Malaysia and India, according to reports.

In domestic news, the Commerce Department said that import price rose 1.3% in March, more than expected, compared with a downwardly-revised decline of 0.1% in February as fuel and industrial material costs rose.

Import prices excluding the fuel component climbed 0.5%. Export prices also increased more than expected, up 0.8%, compared to a gain of 0.4% in February. The rise in both import and export prices were the largest since 2011.

The release of the Fed's Beige Book on recent economic conditions occurs at 2 p.m.


In other corporate news, Travelzoo ( TZOO), a publisher of travel newsletters and Web sites, is planning to sell itself, three people familiar with the matter told Reuters.

The Internet company is in the process of hiring a financial adviser, the sources said. Based on Tuesday's closing price of $21.06, Travelzoo's market capitalization was $331.6 million. The stock was up nearly 30% in pre-market trades.

Travelzoo's move comes after it received takeover interest from private-equity firms and trade buyers, the sources said, Reuters reported.

The list of potential buyers could include Amazon ( AMZN) and Google ( GOOG), said Dan Kurnos, a research analyst at The Benchmark Company.

American International Group ( AIG) is planning to jump back into U.S. property investing, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The move is a reversal of a years-long effort to downsize its real-estate business in the wake of the government bailout the insurance giant received in 2008. The stock was gaining 1.6% at $31.73 ahead of the open.

May oil futures were up 55 cents to $101.57 a barrel, while June gold futures were slipping $1.80 to $1,658.90 an ounce.

The benchmark 10-year Treasury was declining 10/32, lifting the yield to 2%, while the U.S. dollar index eased 0.4% at $79.56.

-- Written by Andrea Tse in New York.

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Andrea Tse.

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