&P set for modest rise as Fortune Brands gains

 @ibtimes
on December 08 2010 9:32 AM

The S&P 500 was set to rise modestly at the open on Wednesday, boosted by positive corporate news, but a rise in bond yields and the dollar could limit gains.

Shares of Fortune Brands Inc , which makes Jim Beam bourbon and Titleist golf balls and Moen faucets, said it will split into three companies, sending its shares up 2.6 percent to $62.75 before the opening bell.

The greenback trimmed gains, helping futures erase earlier losses. But the stronger dollar and high bond yields still kept pressure on the market as Tuesday's deal to extend tax cuts intensified worries about inflation and the costs of the government's debt burden.

Higher bond yields make it more expensive for consumers and businesses to borrow, while stocks and the dollar have moved in opposite directions of late. A rise in yields and the dollar could also draw money away from equities.

U.S. Treasury yields eased slightly after rising overseas on anxiety over the proposed tax deal. The dollar index <.DXY> rose 0.3 percent.

The dollar is a little bit higher and we have yields moving higher as well ... but despite all this, the market is calm as the overall sentiment remains favorable, said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Avalon Partners in New York.

The market may be in sideways action for a day or two, but we are still headed for a higher close at the end of the year.

S&P 500 futures rose 2 points and were above fair value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the contract. Dow Jones industrial average futures were off 2 points, while Nasdaq 100 futures added 6.75 points.

The S&P 500 hit a two-year intraday high on Tuesday, but closed with a small gain.

The S&P faces resistance at the 1,228 level, which represents the 61.8 percent Fibonacci retracement of the 2007-2009 bear market slide, a key technical indicator. The level was confirmed as strong resistance on Tuesday after the index broke through during the session but closed below that point at 1,223.12.

Home Depot Inc forecast an increase in both sales and profits next year, but its shares eased 0.8 percent to $33.30 premarket.

On the Nasdaq, Foster Wheeler AG rose 2.5 percent to $31.35 after Goldman Sachs raised its rating to buy from neutral and boosted the U.S. engineering and construction sector to attractive from neutral.

On the downside, chipmaker bellwether Texas Instruments Inc was off 0.6 percent to $33.20 after it narrowed its earnings outlook in line with estimates. McDonald's Corp gave up 1.4 percent at $79.25 after reporting weaker-than-expected global sales for November.

Stocks eked out a small gain Tuesday after an earlier advance as a tax cut deal was derailed by the rising bond yields and reports of the insider-trading probe.

(Additional reporting by Angela Moon; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

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