Stocks poised for rebound

By staff

NEW YORK ( -- U.S. stocks were set to rise at Thursday's open ahead of testimony from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and as investors braced for a European Union summit.

Dow Jones industrial average, S&P 500 and Nasdaq 100 futures were higher.

Futures measure current index values against perceived future performance and offer an indication of how markets may open when trading begins.

Stocks ended lower Wednesday, as the dollar strengthened on fears tied to the growing fiscal crisis in Europe and a dour report on U.S. sales of new homes raised fresh recovery worries.

"We're looking for a bounce after yesterday's sell-off," said Peter Cardillo, a chief market economist at Avalon Partners. "Today, we have a light economic calendar and the dollar is already slightly lower, so the main focus will be on Bernanke testifying."

Bernanke is scheduled to appear before the House Financial Services Committee Thursday to discuss how the central bank plans to wihdraw stimulus as the economy continues to show signs of a gradual recovery.

Greece: European Union leaders plan to meet in Brussels Thursday to discuss economic concerns.

Investors will be waiting for any news of a rescue package for Greece following speculation that the debt-ridden nation may be forced to turn to the International Monetary Fund for financial assistance.

"Right now, the focus remains on whether or not the EU will reach some sort of agreement and -- perhaps along with the IMF -- enact some sort of gaurantee of support for Greece," said Cardillo.

The EU summit comes a day after rating agency Fitch lowered Portugal's sovereign credit rating, citing the country's growing budget deficit and debt load.

"The downgrade we saw yesterday is a negative for the EU but it's not the immediate problem," said Cardillo. "The concern is whether this will start an infection throughout the weaker European nations. Real fear of further downgrades within the EU is alive in the marketplace."

Dubai: The Dubai government announced plans to inject $9.5 billion in new funding into state-owned Dubai World and real estate developer Nakheel to support debt restructuring efforts.

Economy: The Department of Labor said the number of Americans filing for initial unemployment insurance fell to the lowest level in six weeks.

There were 442,000 claims last week, down 14,000 from a revised 456,000 in the previous week.

Economists surveyed by had expected initial claims to fall slightly to 450,000.

Continuing claims, which reflect people who have been receiving benefits for a week or more, dropped to 4,648,000 during the week ending March 13, from 4,725,500 in the previous week.

Companies: Best Buy (BBY, Fortune 500) reported fiscal fourth quarter results before the opening bell that beat Wall Street's expectations.

The electronics seller announced earnings of $1.82 a share, exceeding the $1.79 per share expected by analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters.

Best Buy shares were up 6.6% in pre-market trading.

Oracle (ORCL, Fortune 500) reports its fiscal third quarter results after the end of trading and is expected to have earned 38 cents versus 35 cents a year earlier.

World markets: Asian stocks ended mixed. In Japan, Tokyo's Nikkei index gained 0.1%, while the Hang Seng in Hong Kong slid 1.1%.

In Europe, Britain's FTSE 100, France's CAC 40 and Germany's DAX were higher in early trade.

The dollar and commodities: The dollar pulled back against the pound, yen and euro after surging to a 10-month high versus the euro on Wednesday.

Crude oil for May delivery was up 32 cents to $80.93 a barrel.

The price of gold for April delivery gained $4.30 an ounce to $1,093.10.

Treasurys: The price of the benchmark 10-year note rose, lowering the yield to 3.625%.

Investors will be eyeing a $32 billion Treasury auction of 7-year notes scheduled Thursday, following lukewarm demand at Wednesday's auction of $42 billion worth of 5-year notes. To top of page

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