Stock futures rise, point to higher opening

June 23, 2010 7:45:06 AM PDT
NEW YORK (AP) - Stocks are trying to snap a two-day losing streak Wednesday as the Federal Reserve is expected to hold a key interest rate at a historic low. Futures rose ahead of the opening bell.

Investors will be looking to the Fed's assessment of the economy for signs of recovery because the central bank's policymakers are widely expected to keep its benchmark rate target at between zero and 0.25 percent.

The Fed has taken a position that rates will remain low indefinitely as it tries to drive a recovery. But the rate-setting committee has also indicated the economy is improving, so any further indications of growth would be a welcome sign for a market that has been choppy and volatile in recent weeks.

Keeping rates low is a boon to the stock market because it leaves investors few alternatives for big profits aside from stocks. A low benchmark rate from the Fed keeps a lid on returns in the bond market and other safe-haven investments that are heavily influenced by interest rates.

Ahead of the opening bell, Dow Jones industrial average futures rose 45, or 0.4 percent, to 10,278. Standard & Poor's 500 index futures rose 5.10, or 0.5 percent, to 1,095.60, while Nasdaq 100 index futures rose 9.75, or 0.5 percent, to 1,888.00.

High unemployment and continued weakness in the housing market are two of the primary reasons the Fed has been able to keep interest rates low. Uncertainty surrounding a recovery in the jobs and housing markets has called into question the pace of an economic recovery. Monthly reports on employment and home sales have disappointed investors so far this month.

The Commerce Department is scheduled to release a new report Wednesday that will say sales of new homes dropped in May. It is the first report on new home sales since a home buyer tax credit expired on April 30.

Economists polled by Thomson Reuters forecast sales of new homes fell nearly 19 percent in May to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 410,000. The report is due out at 10 a.m. EDT.

It would be the second straight day a report showed weakening in the housing market following the expiration of the home buyer tax credit.

Stocks have failed two days in a row to hold onto early morning gains. An unexpected drop in sales of existing homes and the White House's vow to fight a court ruling overturning a ban on offshore drilling drove major indexes lower Tuesday.

Homebuilder and oil stocks were hit the hardest by the sales report and the government's continued push to halt deep water drilling.

Meanwhile, bond prices were little changed Wednesday. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves opposite its price, dipped to 3.16 percent from 3.17 percent late Tuesday.

Overseas, European markets dipped following a disappointing report that showed sentiment in both the manufacturing and service sectors fell this month among the countries using the euro. The pessimism is likely tied to worries that steep budget cuts in countries like Greece, Spain and Portugal will slow a recovery in Europe. Many European countries are grappling with mounting debt problems.

Britain's FTSE 100 fell 0.6 percent, Germany's DAX index dipped 0.3 percent, and France's CAC-40 fell 0.4 percent.