Stock Futures Rise on Positive Consumer Data as Pandora Jumps

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- U.S. stock futures remained stable Friday following the sharpest declines in equities in eight weeks as economic reports showed better-than-expected productivity in the second quarter and a rise in July housing starts ahead of what's expected to be improved data on consumer confidence.

Futures for the S&P 500 were rising 3.5 points, or 0.53 points above fair value, to 1,659.25. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were up 17 points, or 2.81 points above fair value, to 15,087. Futures for the Nasdaq were adding 7.75 points, or 3.52 points above fair value, to 3,078.75.

Housing starts rose to a less than expected seasonally adjusted annual rate of 896,000 in July from an upwardly revised 846,000 in June, the Census Bureau reported Friday. The report also showed building permits increasing in the period to an annualized pace of 943,000 from an upwardly revised 918,000. Economists, on average, were expecting housing starts to come in at 900,000 and building permits of 945,000 in July.

Nonfarm business productivity came in better-than-expected after rebounding in the second quarter, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Productivity edged up 0.9%, up from a downwardly revised negative 1.7% in the first quarter. Expectations were for a rise of 0.6% in the second quarter. The agency also reported a greater-than-expected 1.4% rise in unit labor costs, versus an upwardly revised negative 4.2%. Economists were expecting a 1.2% rise for the second quarter.

These reports will be followed by the University of Michigan consumer sentiment index for August at 9:55 a.m. A print of 85.5 is expected, up from 85.1 in July.

No major U.S. earnings announcements were expected Friday, though personal computer maker Dell ( DELL) was being closely watched after the company reported a 72% decline in 2Q earnings as it turned to aggressive price reductions to stem falling sales driven by the growing preference for tablets and smartphones. Shares were little changed at $13.73 in premarket trading.

Pandora Media ( P) was surging 7.3% to $21.30 after analysts at Goldman Sachs raised their rating on the Internet radio provider to "buy" from "neutral" encouraged by three quarters of accelerating mobile and subscription revenue growth.

Meanwhile Nordstrom ( JWN) was falling 2.95% to $57.58 after department-store operator on Thursday evening slashed its full-year earnings and revenue guidance in the face of weaker same-store sales.

In other corporate headlines, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters ( GMCR) will replace Life Technologies ( LIFE ) on the NASDAQ-100 Index prior to market open on Thursday, August 22.

The benchmark 10-year Treasury was down 1/32, raising the yield to 2.777%. The dollar was rising 0.08% to $81.24 according to the U.S. dollar index.

Overseas markets dipped as investors digested expectations that the Federal Reserve will begin tapering its massive stimulus, bond-buying program this year. The FTSE 100 in London was down 0.16%, while the DAX in Germany was off 0.24%.The Hong Kong Hang Seng finished off 0.1% and the Nikkei 225 in Japan closed down 0.75%.

December gold futures were advancing by $1.40 to $1,362.30 an ounce and September crude oil futures were rising 11 cents to $107.22 a barrel.

-- Written by Andrea Tse in New York

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