US Stock Futures Signal Slightly Higher Open Ahead Of Retail Sales Data

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The U.S. stock index futures point to slightly higher open Wednesday, ahead of the U.S. retail sales data release by the Commerce Department scheduled at 13:30 GMT. Retail sales is expected to show a 0.1 percent rise in January, against a 0.5 percent increase registered in December as consumers eye smaller paychecks on the back of a recent tax increase.

The market sentiment remained buoyant after the president's State of the Union address Tuesday in which he proposed a hike in the minimum wage to $9 an hour from the existing $7.25, and also announced a $50 billion investment in the infrastructure sector to create jobs and boost growth in the economy.  

The futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.10 percent or 14 points, the futures on the Standard & Poor's 500 Index gained 0.08 percent or 1.20 points and those on the Nasdaq 100 Index were trading higher by 0.19 percent or 5.25 points.

Also, investors are expected to focus on earnings reports, with Comcast Corporation (NASDAQ:CMCSA), Dean Foods Company (NYSE:DF), Deere & Company (NYSE:DE), Lorillard Inc. (NYSE:LO), Duke Energy Corp (NYSE:DUK),  MEMC Electronic Materials Inc. (NYSE:WFR), Marsh & McLennan Companies Inc. (NYSE:MMC), Michael Kors Holdings Ltd (NYSE:KORS), The McGraw-Hill Companies Inc. (NYSE:MHP), Huntsman Corporation (NYSE:HUN) and The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company (NASDAQ:GT) expected to announce their quarterly results before market hours Wednesday.

On the corporate front, shares of The Western Union Company (NYSE:WU), and Clearwire Corporation (NASDAQ:CLWR) remain in focus after the companies reported their quarterly earnings late Tuesday. The Western Union Company reported fourth quarter earnings of $237.9 million or $0.40 per share, down from $452.3 million or $0.73 per share last year and revenues of $1.425 billion down from $1.431 billion a year ago. However, the results topped analysts’ expectation of a profit of $0.35 per share on revenues of $1.40 billion.  

Clearwire Corp, the wireless service provider that both Sprint Nextel S.N and Dish Network (DISH.O) wanted to buy reported a wider loss than estimated and an 8 percent decline in subscribers in its fourth quarter results. The company said Tuesday that it would need Sprint financing to keep afloat up to the end of the year.

Shares of Avon Products (NYSE:AVP), which posted a better-than-expected earnings Tuesday before market hours jumped 20 percent, leading the gains on the S&P 500.  

The U.S. markets mostly closed higher Tuesday lifted by the corporate earnings. The Dow Jones rose 0.3 per cent to 14,018.70, near its record high of 14,164 set in October 2007. Nasdaq closed down 0.2 percent at 3,186.49, while S&P closed up 0.2 percent at 1,519.43. 

The Asian markets mostly traded higher Wednesday with the exception of Japan’s Nikkei, which was trading lower owing to the appreciation of the yen. Nikkei lost 1 percent and closed at 11,251.41 Wednesday. The Japanese currency strengthened against its peers after the G7 finance ministers announced their decision to refrain from intentionally weakening their currencies and remain committed to exchange rates driven by the market.

South Korea's Kospi climbed 1.4 percent to 1,973.48, while India’s benchmark Sensex was up 0.28 percent at 19,615.56. Markets in China and Hong Kong remain closed for the Lunar New Year holidays.

European share markets had a mixed opening and traded with an upward bias, despite mixed corporate earnings from blue-chip companies such as Societe Generale and Nordic mobile phone firm Telenor. Figures from French bank Societe Generale and Nordic Mobile telecoms firm Telenor missed analyst expectations, hit by weakness in the euro zone and Denmark respectively. 

President Obama in his State of the Union address Tuesday said that U.S. would commence talks on a potential free-trade deal with the European Union.

Investors also await the release of euro zone industrial output report for December, scheduled for Wednesday.

London's FTSE 100 slid 0.2 percent, while France's CAC-40 gained 0.1 percent and Germany's DAX climbed 0.2 percent.  

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