Stock futures point to modestly higher opening
Stock futures point toward higher opening as investors wait to hear from Fed chairman
By Stephen Bernard, AP Business Writer
On Friday August 21, 2009, 7:55 am EDT
NEW YORK (AP) -- Stock futures rose moderately Friday, pointing to a higher open on Wall Street as investors await a speech from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.
Traders will be looking to Bernanke's speech for insight into a potential economic rebound.
During an annual Fed conference in Jackson Hole, Wyo., Bernanke is expected to talk about the past year's financial crisis and could provide clues about how the Fed will eventually withdraw trillions of dollars in aid used to support the economy.
Withdrawing that support too soon could hinder any recovery. But, waiting too long could lead to rapid inflation.
A report on existing home sales could also provide direction for investors. Sales have shown signs of life in recent months, raising hopes for a recovery for the overall economy. The National Association of Realtors is expected to report existing home sales rose for the fourth consecutive month in July.
July's sales are forecast to rise 2.2 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5 million, from 4.89 million in June, according to economists polled by Thomson Reuters.
The report is due out at 10 a.m. EDT.
The stock market has seesawed throughout the week on mixed economic news. Light summer trading volume could also be affecting the market, skewing gains and losses.
Overseas, European markets rose after mixed trading in Asia.
Ahead of the opening bell, Dow Jones industrial average futures rose 43, or 0.5 percent, to 9,363. Standard & Poor's 500 index futures rose 6.00, or 0.6 percent, to 1,010.70, while Nasdaq 100 index futures gained 5.25, or 0.3 percent, to 1,619.25.
Stocks rose moderately Thursday amid light trading. Investors latched on to some positive economic signs, such as a report showing a pickup in mid-Atlantic manufacturing, to help send the market higher. The Dow gained 0.8 percent, while the S&P jumped 1.1 percent.
The market began the week tumbling amid concern about consumer confidence. Investors have been closely watching for signs that consumers are starting to get more comfortable with a potential rebound and spend again. Consumer spending accounts for more than two-thirds of economic activity.
Retailer Gap Inc. reported slightly better-than-expected earnings after the market closed Thursday. However, like many other retailers, Gap said its sales fell as fewer customers made their way into stores.
Meanwhile, bond prices declined. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves opposite its price, rose to 3.45 percent, from 3.44 percent late Thursday. The yield on the three-month T-bill, considered one of the safest investments, rose to 0.17 percent from 0.15 percent late Thursday.
The dollar fell against other major currencies, while gold prices rose.
Overseas, Japan's Nikkei stock average fell 1.4 percent. In afternoon trading, Britain's FTSE 100 rose 1.1 percent, Germany's DAX index gained 1.7 percent, and France's CAC-40 rose 1.5 percent.