Stocks set to open higher

By CNNMoney.com staff


NEW YORK(CNNMoney.com) -- U.S. stocks were set to open higher Monday as investors remained focused on the economic outlook ahead of a highly anticipated statement from the Federal Reserve later this week.

Dow Jones industrial average (INDU) S&P 500 (SPX) and Nasdaq (COMP) futures were up slightly. Futures measure current index values against perceived future performance.

Wall Street ended last week on a negative note, with stocks falling after the government said the economy lost 131,000 jobs last month. For the full week, however, stocks ended with gains.

The larger-than-expected drop in July payrolls added to concerns about the slowing pace of the economic recovery. It came after a recent spate of disappointing reports on housing, retail sales and consumer confidence.

While there were no major economic reports on the agenda Monday, investors will take in a number of top-tier indicators later this week. Among them are reports on consumer prices and retail sales.

This week's main event will be Tuesday's policy statement from the Federal Reserve. The central bank is widely expected to hold interest rates at historic lows near zero percent, a policy that has been in place since December 2008.

However, investors are eager to see what additional steps the Fed is willing to take to help support the economic recovery, which is turning out to be weaker than many analysts had expected earlier this year.

David Jones, chief market strategist at IG Markets in London, said stocks were supported by expectations the Fed will strike a more dovish tone. "Following the payrolls report on Friday, we may see a softer approach from the Fed," he said.

Stocks have gained relatively little ground so far in August, historically a down month for the market, as trading volumes have been low and many market participants remain on the sidelines, he added.

"We've seen some moves up and down but very little in the way of direction," said Jones.

Companies: Stocks to watch include HP (HPQ, Fortune 500), whose shares tumbled in after-hours trading Friday after chief Mark Hurd resigned after a sexual harassment claim was made against him and the company.

Apple (AAPL, Fortune 500) confirmed over the weekend that Mark Papermaster, the former IBM executive in charge of the iPhone division, has been replaced by Bob Mansfield.

World markets: European markets rallied in morning trading, with Britain's FTSE 100, France's CAC 40 and Germany's DAX all gaining at least 1%.

In Asia, Japan's Nikkei finished the session 0.7% lower. The Shanghai Composite and Hang Seng both gained about 0.5%.

Currencies and commodities: The dollar gained slightly against the U.K. pound, but weakened against the euro and Japanese yen.

Oil futures for September delivery rose 99 cents to $81.69 a barrel.

Gold futures for December delivery gained $3.40 to $1,208.70 an ounce.

Bonds: Prices for U.S. Treasurys were little changed. The yield on the 10-year note was 2.82%. The government is scheduled to auction $74 billion worth of 3-, 10- and 30-year debt this week. To top of page

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