Stock futures rise ahead of Bernanke, housing data

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Stock index futures rose on Friday as investors looked to a speech from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and new data on the sale of existing homes for a fresh insight into the economy.

Bernanke is scheduled to speak to a gathering in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, on the lessons learned from the financial crisis and efforts to aid the economic recovery.

U.S. sales of existing homes likely rose to their highest level in 10 months in July, according to a Reuters poll, as buyers rushed to take advantage of a tax credit for first-time homeowners.

Both Bernanke's speech and the housing data are due at 10 a.m.

S&P 500 futures rose 5.00 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 gained 33 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures were up 5.25 points.

The picture in overseas equity markets, which had disturbed U.S. investors this week, lent support on Friday as the Shanghai Composite Index <.SSEC> gained 1.7 percent, and European stocks <.FTEU3> rose 1.2 percent in morning trade.

But Japan's Nikkei <.225> fell due to the strong yen and weakness in automakers on news that the United States will end its car rebate program soon. <.T>.

The popular U.S. government cash-for-clunkers program, offering rebates of up to $4,500 to car buyers trading in older, fuel-thirsty vehicles, will end on Monday, the Transportation Department said late on Thursday.

In earnings news, Gap Inc posted a slightly stronger than expected quarterly profit late on Thursday as more full-priced sales, inventory controls and cost cuts helped offset declining revenue at all the clothing retailer chains.

In a potential lucrative joint truck venture, Caterpillar Inc and Navistar International Corp are in talks with China's Anhui Jianghuai Automobile Co <600418.SS> to gain a foothold in the country's $22 billion heavy truck market, a source familiar with the matter said on Friday.

U.S. shares gained ground for a third session in a row on Thursday with financial stocks pacing the gains after U.S. manufacturing data and a rebound in recently-hammered Chinese stocks reassured investors.

(Reporting by Edward Krudy; Editing by Theodore d'Afflisio)

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