NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Stock futures were pointing to a higher open for the start of the second quarter, buoyed by commentary on Monday from Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen who said that low interest rates would persist for some time, and better manufacturing data from the eurozone.
Investors were looking to auto sales and manufacturing data for a further reading on U.S. economic health.
- Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were rising 39.34 over fair value to 16,374.66 while futures for the S&P 500 were rising 4.01 over fair value to 1,868.75. Futures for the Nasdaq were up 7.46 over fair value to 3,594.
- On the economic calendar, the PMI Manufacturing Index for March is due at 9.45 a.m. EDT, with expectations that manufacturing growth in early March was solid. Forecasts are for a result of 56.8 down from 57.1 in February. February construction spending is due at 10 a.m. with no change expected from last month's0.1% gain.
- Stocks expected to see price action include Ford (F), General Motors (GM) and other large automakers, which will report their U.S. auto sales for March on Tuesday. Sales are expected to rise 24% from February to March to 1,476,535 units, representing a 1.7% gain from a year ago. Apollo Education Group (APOL) is expected to post second-quarter earnings of 19 cents a share. BHP Billiton (BHP) said Tuesday it may further overhaul its portfolio amid reports the company is mulling a A$20 billion( $19 billion) divestment of less-profitable assets. A possible demerger of non-core assets is said to include aluminum, bauxite and nickel. BHP said potash could become a major business and suggested that focusing on iron ore, copper, coal and petroleum would produce better returns on investment. The company recently sold its diamonds business in response to the dive in global commodity prices.
- In global economic news, the eurozone unemployment rate was 11.9% in February, according to Eurostat. Estimates called for a jobless rate of 12%. The region's manufacturing sector showed improvement, with Markit reporting a final March reading of 53 for its eurozone manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index. France had its strongest reading since June 2011, with manufacturing returning to expansion with a result of 52.1 against 49.7 in February.
- By contrast, Chinese manufacturing further weakened for a third month in March, with the HSBC China manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index falling to 48.0 from 48.5 in February, the worst result since last July.
- Global markets were mostly higher. The Hang Seng closed 1.34% higher while the Nikkei shed 0.24%. The FTSE was gaining 0.51% while Germany's DAX was up 0.57%.
- Markets closed higher Monday after dovish comments from Yellen assured investors that monetary policy would remain supportive.
-- Written by Jane Searle in New York