Stocks: Bernanke comments to spur gain

@CNNMoneyInvest March 26, 2012: 8:40 AM ET

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NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- U.S. stocks were poised to open higher Monday as Fed chairman Ben Bernanke's comments on the job market gave investors reason to believe interest rates will stay low.

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

In an address Monday to the National Association for Business Economics, the Federal Reserve chairman said that while recent jobs data have been positive, "the better jobs numbers seem somewhat out of sync with the overall pace of economic expansion."

Futures edged higher during Bernanke's speech, as his comments suggest the central bank is prepared to keep interest rates low for an extended period of time.

A report on pending home sales is due later Monday, following a number of reports on the housing market last week, which provided a mixed picture of the sector. The housing market remains a source of worry despite other indicators suggesting the broader economy is improving.

U.S. stocks closed slightly higher Friday after moving unevenly throughout the day, but the Dow and S&P 500 both closed the week down. Only the Nasdaq was able to claw out a weekly gain.

Investors' enthusiasm was dampened by a series of dour economic reports out of China that underscored concerns about slower growth in the world's second largest economy.

Despite the off week, the S&P 500 is up 11% for the year while the Dow is 7% higher. The Nasdaq is up nearly 18% in 2012.

World markets: European stocks were mixed in afternoon trading. Britain's FTSE 100 (UKX) shed 0.2%, the DAX (DAX) in Germany gained 0.6% and France's CAC 40 (CAC40) was flat.

Asian markets ended little changed. The Shanghai Composite (SHCOMP) and Japan's Nikkei (N225) added 0.1%, while the Hang Seng (HSI) in Hong Kong was flat.

Economy: Pending home sales for February are expected to have increased by 0.5%, after ticking up by 2% in January, according to a survey of analysts by

Companies: Shares of Lions Gate Entertainment (LGF) were up more than 9% in premarket trading after a gangbusters opening weekend for the studio's post-apocalyptic teen death match film "The Hunger Games."

BATS Global Markets, an equities and options exchange operator, started trading Friday at $15.25, after pricing its initial public offering at $16, the low end of its estimated range.

BATS: Well, this is awkward

Trading was halted in late morning, however, as the exchange said it was investigating system issues, and by day's end, BATS announced it had withdrawn its IPO.

A BATS spokeswoman said Friday that the company had no further plans to go public at present.

Currencies and commodities: The dollar strengthened against the euro, the British pound and the Japanese yen.

Oil for May delivery slipped 11 cents to $106.76 a barrel.

Gold futures for April delivery fell $2.30 to $1,660.10 an ounce.

Bonds: The price on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury dropped, pushing the yield up to 2.28% from 2.24% late Friday.  To top of page

Index Last Change % Change
Dow 17,678.70 6.10 0.03%
Nasdaq 4,771.76 13.88 0.29%
S&P 500 2,057.09 5.27 0.26%
Treasuries 1.83 0.01 0.61%
Data as of 4:44pm ET
Company Price Change % Change
Bank of America Corp... 15.85 0.12 0.76%
Apple Inc 113.10 0.12 0.11%
Safeway Inc 35.10 -0.19 -0.54%
Microsoft Corp 47.01 -0.17 -0.36%
General Electric Co 24.59 0.11 0.45%
Data as of 4:02pm ET
Overnight Avg Rate Latest Change Last Week
30 yr fixed3.84%3.80%
15 yr fixed2.95%2.90%
5/1 ARM3.23%3.05%
30 yr refi3.84%3.81%
15 yr refi3.01%2.96%
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