Wall Street set to open near 3-year highs on profits

By @ibtimes on

Wall Street stocks looked set to open near three-year highs on Monday after strong earnings, although traders eyed rising oil prices in what was likely to be a slow session, with major European markets closed.

Of S&P 500 companies that have reported, 75 percent beat analysts' expectations. That is just above the average over the past four quarters but well above the average of 62 percent since 1994, according to Thomson Reuters data.

The Dow hit a high for the year last week and is trading near a three-year high. The S&P 500 has moved to the top end of its recent trading range where it is facing resistance at its last high for the year.

Companies reporting earnings on Monday include Express Scripts and Ameriprise Financial . This week is a hectic one for earnings with another 180 S&P 500 companies reporting their quarterly scorecards.

The earnings reports from last week were pretty positive, said John Brady, senior vice president at MF Global in Chicago. There will be a focus and concentration on earnings here.

Brent crude oil rose above $124 a barrel, pushed higher by an escalation of violence in the oil-producing Middle East, as well as post-election unrest in OPEC member Nigeria.

Brady noted that activity would likely be subdued as many major European markets remain closed over the long Easter weekend. U.S. traders are returning after markets were closed on Friday for the Easter holiday.

Silver jumped more than 5 percent and gold rose to a record on Monday as investors sought shelter against a weaker dollar, while prices of grains and crude oil surged on supply fears.

S&P 500 futures added 3.2 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 gained 27 points and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 6.25 points.

It's going to be very modest volume today, said Brady. It's a day we want to play defense and not offense.

The U.S. Federal Reserve is meeting this week and will hold the first of four news conferences on Wednesday. Investors are looking for clues about the direction of monetary policy when the Fed's bond-buying program ends in June.

RadioShack Corp's quarterly profit fell due to weakness in its T-Mobile business and higher costs related to the roll-out of its wireless kiosks in Target stores. The shares fell 3.1 percent to $15.34 before the opening bell.

Road construction equipment maker Astec Industries Inc posted better-than-expected quarterly results, helped by higher asphalt and mining group revenue.

(Editing by Kenneth Barry)

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