Wall Street was set for a higher open on Thursday as reports on economic growth and jobless claims came in roughly as forecast, while shares of Best Buy jumped after its results beat expectations.
Shares of Best Buy
Investors will be watching for congressional testimony by U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner in which he is expected to outline proposals for tough new financial rules as part of efforts to stabilize the economy and curb risk-taking.
Government data showed the U.S. economy contracted slightly less than expected in the fourth quarter, although corporate profits in the same quarter plunged by the biggest margin since 1994. The number of workers collecting state unemployment benefits rose to a record in the latest week.
Economic data earlier in the week had helped raise hopes that the impact of the slump was moderating.
Joe Saluzzi, co-manager of trading at Themis Trading in Chatham, New Jersey, said that while the data was not good, it was largely in line with expectations.
When you're in an uptrend market like we are now, it tends to give you a little more 'oomph' to the upside, as long as you don't miss (expectations) too badly, said Saluzzi.
S&P 500 futures rose 9.30 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 climbed 78 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures added 18.25 points.
The broad S&P 500 index has rallied about 20 percent off the 12-year closing low seen on March 9, strengthened by efforts by policy makers to pull the economy out of recession and positive comments by some major banks.
Geithner is expected to propose creating a powerful systemic risk regulator with authority to look deep into non-bank financial firms such as hedge funds and private equity firms, officials said.
Bank shares added to Wednesday's late rally in trading before the bell, with JPMorgan
On Wednesday stocks rallied late in the day as unexpectedly strong data on new home sales and durable goods orders fueled hopes the economy is on the mend, offsetting concerns that the United States may struggle to fund plans to pull itself out of recession after poor demand in a Treasury debt auction.
Atlanta Federal Reserve President Dennis Lockhart cautioned on Thursday, however, that one month of improved data does not add up to an economic recovery and said the U.S. recession will last for at least a few more months.
(Editing by James Dalgleish)