Eurozone optimism to boost stocks

@CNNMoneyInvest February 15, 2012: 9:08 AM ET
u.s. stock futures, premarkets

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NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- U.S. stocks were poised for a higher open Wednesday, thanks to better-than-expected European economic data and fresh promises from China to keep buying debt issued by eurozone governments.

The Dow Jones industrial average (INDU), S&P 500 (SPX) and Nasdaq (COMP) futures were up between 0.3% and 0.5% higher ahead of the opening bell. Stock futures indicate the possible direction of the markets when they open at 9:30 a.m. ET.

The overall eurozone economy shrank for the first time in more than two years during the final three months of 2011, but the 0.3% quarterly drop was not as bad as economists expected. The performance was driven by a smaller-than-expected drop in German GDP and surprise growth in France -- the eurozone's two largest economies.

Meanwhile, a China-European Union summit ended Tuesday with promises for more support from Beijing for debt-straddled Europe.

"China is firm in supporting the EU side in dealing with the debt problems. We match our words with actions," Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said.

Despite the encouraging data from the eurozone as a whole, Greece still remains on the brink of disaster.

Greek economy stuck in a rut

A much anticipated meeting of eurozone finance ministers scheduled for Wednesday was canceled a day earlier. Jean-Claude Juncker, who heads the Eurogroup of 17 eurozone finance ministers, said more work needed to be done between Greece and its bailout partners, and that he would hold a conference call in place of Wednesday's meeting.

Greece needs the group of finance ministers to approve its latest economic reform proposal, in order to secure bailout funds to avoid defaulting on a €14.5 billion bond redemption in March.

U.S. stocks recovered from earlier losses late Tuesday to closed mixed.

World markets: European stocks rose in afternoon trading. Britain's FTSE 100 (UKX) edged up 0.1%, the DAX (DAX) in Germany gained 0.9%and France's CAC 40 (CAC40) added 0.7%.

Asian markets ended with solid gains. The Shanghai Composite (SHCOMP) rose 0.9%, the Hang Seng (HSI) in Hong Kong spiked 2.1% and Japan's Nikkei (N225) rallied 2.3%.

Economy: The Empire Manufacturing survey rose to 19.5 in February, from 13.5 the previous month. Analysts were expecting the survey to come in at 14.0.

Analysts expect January industrial production to have increased by 0.6%. The February installment of the National Association of Home Builders is expected to stand at 26, up from 25 in January.

The Federal Reserve will release the minutes from its monetary policy meeting in late January.

Companies: Comcast (CMCSA, Fortune 500) shares popped after the cable provider beat estimates for its fourth-quarter profit and revenue, and announced a 44% increase to its dividend -- as well as a $6.5 billion stock buyback program.

Shares of Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF) slid after the retailer's fourth-quarter profit fell from a year ago.

Shares of Dean Foods (DF, Fortune 500) jumped after the the company's fourth-quarter loss narrowed compared to a year ago.

Devon Energy's (DVN, Fortune 500) stock rose on the company's higher-than-expected fourth-quarter profit, as production of oil and gas rose.

Shares of Hartford Financial (HGI) spiked after hedge fund manager John Paulsom ramped up pressure on the company, calling for it to spin-off the property-and-casualty business from the life insurance business. Paulson trimmed his stake in the company during the fourth quarter, but remains Hartford's largest shareholder.

Shares of Zynga (ZNGA) were down sharply after the social gaming giant posted a net loss of $404 million for the full 2011 fiscal year, due to large stock-based compensation expenses.

Procter & Gamble (PG, Fortune 500) has found a new buyer for its Pringles unit. Cereal maker Kellogg Co. (K, Fortune 500) will pay $2.7 billion for the distinctively shaped potato chip product. P&G was looking for a buyer for Pringles after a previous deal fell through last week, in the wake of a scandal at would-be buyer Diamond Foods (DMND).

Currencies and commodities: The dollar fell against the euro and the British pound, but rose versus the Japanese yen.

Oil for March delivery rose 75 cents to $101.49 a barrel.

Gold futures for April delivery gained $10.30 to $1,728 an ounce.

Bonds: The price on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury was lower, pushing the yield down to 1.95% from 1.92% late Tuesday.  To top of page

Index Last Change % Change
Dow 17,390.52 195.10 1.13%
Nasdaq 4,630.74 64.60 1.41%
S&P 500 2,018.05 23.40 1.17%
Treasuries 2.34 0.03 1.30%
Data as of 4:51am ET
Company Price Change % Change
Bank of America Corp... 17.16 0.13 0.76%
Intel Corp 34.01 1.43 4.39%
Apple Inc 108.00 1.02 0.95%
Facebook Inc 74.99 0.88 1.19%
General Electric Co 25.81 0.14 0.55%
Data as of Oct 31
Overnight Avg Rate Latest Change Last Week
30 yr fixed3.97%3.98%
15 yr fixed3.11%3.05%
5/1 ARM3.40%3.32%
30 yr refi4.05%4.05%
15 yr refi3.19%3.12%
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