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Stocks May See Early Strength Following Bernanke Remarks - U.S. Commentary

After turning in a mixed performance last week, stocks are likely to move to the upside in early trading on Monday. The major index futures are currently pointing to a higher open for the markets, with the Dow futures up by 84 points.

The upward momentum for the markets comes on the heels of remarks from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, who noted that the U.S. unemployment rate has declined faster than the Fed predicted but cautioned that the jobs market remains far from normal.

"We have seen some positive signs on the jobs front recently, including a pickup in monthly payroll gains and a notable decline in the unemployment rate," Bernanke told the National Association for Business Economics Annual Conference in Washington, DC.

However, Bernanke warned that cyclical problems could turn into structural weakness in the U.S. jobs market without a more robust recovery

But he assured that that the Fed's zero-interest rate policy and other support measures will help reduce unemployment over time by promoting economic growth.

Not long after the open, trading could be impacted by the release of a report from the National Association of Realtors on pending home sales in the month of February. Economists expect the pending home sales index to increase by 1.0 percent.

A pending sale is one in which a contract was signed but not yet closed. Normally, it takes four to six weeks to close a contracted sale.

Stocks finished a choppy trading day in positive territory on Friday, overcoming an early dip to end the session with modest gains.

The major averages all managed to end the day modestly above the unchanged line. The Dow rose 34.59 points or 0.3 percent to 13,080.73, the Nasdaq edged up 4.60 points or 0.2 percent to 3,067.92 and the S&P 500 climbed 4.33 points or 0.3 percent to 1,397.11.

Despite the gains on the day, the major averages turned in a mixed performance for the week. While the Nasdaq rose 0.4 percent, the Dow dropped 1.1 percent and the S&P 500 fell 0.5 percent.

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region turned in a mixed performance on Monday. Japan's Nikkei 225 Index edged up by 0.1 percent, while Australia's All Ordinaries slipped by 0.1 percent.

Meanwhile, the major European markets have all moved to the upside on the day. While the French CAC 40 Index is up by 0.4 percent, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index is up by 0.7 percent, and the German DAX Index is up by 1.1 percent.

In commodities trading, crude oil futures are climbing $0.20 to $107.07 a barrel after edging down $0.19 or 0.2 percent to $106.87 a barrel in the week ended March 23rd. Gold futures are rising $14.90 to $1,677.30 an ounce. Last week, the precious metal rose $6.60 or 0.4 percent to $1,662.40 an ounce.

On the currency front, the U.S. dollar dropped 1.3 percent against the Japanese yen last week to 82.35 yen. The greenback also fell 0.7 versus the euro to $1.3270. The U.S. dollar is currently trading at 82.68 yen and is valued at $1.3324 versus the euro.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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