NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- U.S. stock index futures were turning higher Thursday as retail sales rose more than expected in November, bolstering the outlook for the U.S. economic recovery even as markets remains susceptible to back-and-forth chatter that the Federal Reserve will reduce it stimulus program following a policy meeting next week.
- S&P 500 futures were up 2.75 points, or 1.88 points above fair value, to 1,783.5. Dow Jones Industrial Average futures were adding on 19 points, or 20.47 points above fair value, to 15,855. Nasdaq futures were up 6.5 points, or 8.21 points above fair value, to 3,477.
- Retail sales rose more than expected in November by 0.7%, after an upwardly revised 0.6% in October. The Census Bureau was expected to report a 0.6% increase. Weekly initial jobless claims rose 68,000 to 368,000 in the week of December 7, a higher number than the 320,000 expected by economists. U.S. November import prices fell by an expected 0.6%, according to the Labor Department. October business inventories will be reported at 10 a.m.
- Markets are bracing for a cut in Fed stimulus following some improved recent economic data, highlighted by November's job report, which saw unemployment drop to a five-year low of 7%.
- The next Fed policy meeting takes place on Tuesday and Wednesday, an event to be accompanied by forecasts and Chairman Ben Bernanke's final press conference as the head of the central bank.
- The S&P 500 is up about 27% year to date and on track for its strongest yearly increase since 1998 after the central bank stood pat on its $85 billion monthly bond purchasing program. The benchmark S&P has now risen about 167%, after sinking to a 12-year low in 2009, fuelled by three rounds of quantitative easing embarked on by the Fed.
- The House is expected to vote Thursday on the $85 billion budget deal revealed Tuesday evening, negotiated by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.). The deal outlines spending levels for 2014 and 2015. Major U.S. stock markets dropped Wednesday amid growing speculation the Federal Reserve will curb its stimulus program after an apparent political deal on the U.S. budget alleviated concerns about another government shutdown.
- In upbeat stock news, Facebook (FB) shares were soaring more than 4% to $51.37 in premarket trading Wednesday after it was announced the social networking giant would be added to the S&P 500 on Dec. 20. Facebook also is being added to the S&P 100 index. Lululemon Athletica (LULU) shares were plunging 8.49% to $62.55 after the yoga and athletic apparel maker delivered better-than-expected third-quarter earnings but said comparable sales in the final quarter of the year will be flat. Software maker Adobe (ADBE) is scheduled to report quarterly earnings on Thursday.
-- Written by Andrea Tse in New York.