Stock Futures Point Higher Ahead of Bernanke Testimony as Toll Brothers Jumps

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- U.S. stock futures were trading higher Wednesday morning as investors await testimony from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke before Congress, and a report is expected to show stronger existing home sales.

Futures for the S&P 500 were up 4 points, or 2.74 points above fair value, to 1,669.5.

At 10 a.m. EDT, Bernanke will testify on the outlook for the U.S. economy and the central bank's bond-buying before the Joint Economic Committee of Congress. Simultaneously, the National Association of Realtors is expected to say that existing-home sales rose in April to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 4.99 million from 4.92 million.

Ahead of the housing report, Toll Brothers ( TOL), the largest luxury homebuilder in the U.S., provided an earnings report that demonstrated the increasing health of the U.S. housing market. Shares were gaining 5.3% to $37.92 after the homebuilder booked fiscal second-quarter earnings that soared 46%, with earnings per share beating expectations by seven cents at 14 cents a share, driven by stronger sales and increased pricing power given the accelerated demand.

"We think it is unlikely for him Bernanke to announce any details on curtailing QE, but he is also unlikely to rule out the possibility of the stimulus ending early," noted Phillip Futures analyst Joyce Liu in Singapore.

At 1 p.m., Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher is scheduled to speak on the economy and Fed operations in Nacogdoches, Texas. The bank's influential Federal Open Market Committee will release minutes from its April 30 to May 1 meeting at 2 p.m.

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were up 27 points, or 21.42 points above fair value, to 15,382. Futures for the Nasdaq were up 8.75 points, or 5 points above fair value, to 3,030.25.

Saks ( SKS) shares were surging 18.58% to $16.21 in premarket trading after reportedly hiring Goldman Sachs to explore strategic alternatives, including a possible sale of the luxury department store chain. The New York Post reported that likely bidders for the retailer include private-equity firms KKR and Leonard Green & Partners. On Tuesday, Saks posted a 38% decline in first-quarter earnings but its adjusted results topped expectations.

Target ( TGT) was slipping 2.26% to $69.65 after the retailer cut its full-year earnings per share estimate, explaining that colder than usual weather hurt the beginning of its spring season. Target posted first-quarter earnings of $1.05 a share versus the average analyst estimate of 85 cents a share.

Staples ( SPLS) was falling 3.32% to $14.26 after the office supply chain posted earnings that missed first-quarter expectations by a penny at 26 cents a share, as revenues also disappointed, with sales being dragged down by, for instance, by store closures and foreign exchange headwinds.

The FTSE 100 in the U.K. was off 0.01%, while the DAX in Germany was down 0.03%, both paring losses. The Hong Kong Hang Seng closed off 0.45%. The Nikkei 225 in Japan rose 1.6% after the Bank of Japan, following the conclusion of a two-day meeting, vowed Wednesday to maintain its aggressive quantitative easing program, adding that economic conditions are improving.

The benchmark 10-year Treasury was unchanged, with the yield at 1.932%. The dollar was rising 0.19% to $83.90 according to the U.S. dollar index.

June gold futures were rising $13.80 to $1,391.40 an ounce. July oil futures were down 14 cents to $96.04 a barrel.

U.S. stocks on Tuesday rallied off session lows as St. Louis Federal Bank President James Bullard said quantitative easing remains the best monetary policy option right now. New York Fed President William Dudley also offered relatively bullish comments on Tuesday.

Written by Andrea Tse in New York

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