Wall Street remains optimistic on Tuesday, as indicated by the U.S. index futures, which point to a higher opening. That said, the mood was a far cry from what prevailed yesterday post-Bernanke's comments. Among the global markets, Asian stocks, with the exception of Chinese stocks, closed higher, while European stocks are up for the third straight session. Given the fresh multi-year highs hit by the Nasdaq Composite and the S&P 500 Index yesterday, only some meaningfully positive catalysts could help markets preserve the upward momentum.
A consumer confidence reading, a regional manufacturing survey and another public appearance by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke are among the key Main Street events that could impact markets. Homebuilder Lennar (LEN) reported better than expected earnings, lending credence to the recovery seen in the housing market.
As of 6:30 am ET, the Dow futures are rising 9 points, the S&P 500 futures are advancing 1.20 points and the Nasdaq 100 futures are adding 3.50 points.
After a nervous run for most of last week, U.S. stocks ended Monday's session on a firmer note, with Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's comments on the job market and his assurance to keep interest rates low and developments surrounding the eurozone debt crisis increasing risk appetite.
On the economic front, the Conference Board is set to release its report on U.S. consumer confidence at 10 am ET. The report, which is based on a survey of 5,000 U.S. households, is expected to show that the consumer confidence index rose to70.9 in March.
The S&P/Case-Shiller home price index is scheduled to be released at 9 am. Economists expect a seasonally adjusted 0.2 percent month-over-month drop in the 20-city composite house price index for January compared to a 0.5 percent drop in the previous month.
Boston Federal Reserve Bank President Eric Rosengren is scheduled to speak to the National Institute for Economic and Social Research in London.
The Richmond Federal Reserve's manufacturing index due to be released at 10 am ET is expected to see a 2-point drop to 18 in March.
Bernanke will deliver the third of four lectures at the George Washington School of Business at 12:45 pm ET, the final one to follow March 29.
In corporate news, Apollo Group (APOL) reported second quarter adjusted earnings from continuing operations of 58 cents per share on net revenues of $969.6 million, down from $1.05 billion last year. The results were ahead of estimates. For 2012, the company continued to expect operating income, excluding items, of $625 million to $725 million on net revenues of $4.1 billion to $4.3 billion. Analysts estimate revenues of $4.24 billion.
Lennar reported first quarter earnings of 8 cents per share on 30 percent revenue growth to $724.9 million. The results were better than expected.
ISTA Pharma (ISTA) announced an agreement to be acquired by Bausch + Lomb for $9.10 per share in cash or a total of about $500 million. The deal is expected to close in the second quarter of 2012.
Dollar General (DG) announced an underwritten secondary public offering of 25 million shares. The shares are being sold by selling shareholders and the company will not receive any proceeds from the offering.
Christopher & Banks (CBK), Oxford Industries (OXM), PVH (PVH), Robbins & Myers (RBN) and Sealy (ZZ) are among the companies due to report their quarterly results after the markets close.
The major Asian averages advanced, helped by the positive lead from Wall Street overnight, which was achieved on the back of the realization that accommodative policy is here to stay.
Japan's Nikkei 225 average opened higher and moved sideways in the morning. In the afternoon, the index advanced steadily and closed notably higher for the session, hitting its highest closing level since March 10th, 2011. Financial and export stocks particular strength.
Australia's All Ordinaries ended 36.40 points or 0.84 percent higher at 4,392, representing a 5-month high. Energy and healthcare stocks led the gains. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index added 319.56 points or 1.55 percent before closing at 20,988.
The major European markets are extending their gains, with the French CAC 40 Index and the German DAX Index rising 0.29 percent and 0.61 percent, respectively. Meanwhile, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index is adding 0.25 percent.
On the economic front, a survey done by GfK showed that consumer climate in Germany is set to weaken going forward. The GfK said its forward looking consumer sentiment index for Germany is expected to dip to 5.9 in April from 6 in March. The weakness reflected a notable decline in the index of income expectations for March. Meanwhile, INSEE's monthly consumer sentiment survey showed that French consumer confidence rose 5 points to 87 in March.
Spain sold 2.579 billion worth of 3-month and 6-month treasury bills, within its 2 billion to 3 billion target, although the yields were higher than in previous auctions. At the same time, Italy's bond auction was fairly encouraging.
The dollar is seeing a modest rebound after yesterday's weakness, while oil and gold futures are modestly higher.
by RTT Staff Writer
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