Healthy start seen for stocks

U.S. markets poised for a rebound Wednesday after latest Senate action of health care.

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By staff

NEW YORK ( -- Stocks were set to open modestly higher Wednesday, as investors consider the progress of a health care reform measure in the Senate.

Dow Jones industrial average, Nasdaq-100 and S&P-500 futures were up a little.

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

Stocks fell sharply Tuesday as investors eyed weak global markets, a rising dollar, falling oil and gold prices and some weak corporate results.

Dave Rovelli, managing director at Canaccord Adams, said futures were being driven by politicians "finally agreeing to a health care bill" and President Obama's plan to advance another job stimulus program.

Rovelli said these two factors were "taking a little bit of uncertainty out of the market."

Health care. Liberal and moderate Democrats reached "broad agreement" on the public option portion of the Senate health care bill, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said late Tuesday.

Two Democratic sources said the deal would, among other things, replace the public option by creating a not-for-profit private insurance option similar to the one available to federal workers, and would allow people 55 and older to buy into Medicare coverage currently available to those 65 and older ( Senate Dems agree)

The stock price for health insurance companies WellPoint (WLP, Fortune 500), Cigna (CI, Fortune 500) and UnitedHealth Group (UNH, Fortune 500) rose in pre-market trading.

Economy. Government figures due at 10 a.m. ET are expected to show wholesale inventories fell 0.5% in October after a 0.8% decline the month before.

The Federal Reserve bank of Chicago opens a two-day conference on the nation's foreclosure policy.

On Capitol Hill, the Senate Banking Committee will hold a hearing on creating jobs, while a subcommittee of the House Financial Services Committee will hear testimony on the Madoff scandal.

In light of Tuesday's decline, Len Blum, managing director for Westwood Capital LLC, said investor sentiment is skeptical at best about the state of the U.S. economy.

He said the biggest hurdle for the markets going forward is the realization "that the economy is not strong and that government debt is piling up. The government has printed a lot of money. I think there's a real pessimism in the market."

World Markets. Stocks in Asia ended lower, with Tokyo's Nikkei index and Hong Kong's Hang Seng index sliding more than 1.3% each. European indexes turned slightly higher at midday.

Other markets. The dollar fell against major international currencies.

Crude oil for January delivery rose 89 cents to $73.51 a barrel ahead of the government's weekly inventory report. The Energy Information Administration will release data on the nation's supplies of crude at 10:30 a.m.

Gold futures for February delivery were practically unchanged, falling $2.90 to $1,139.90 an ounce. That's nearly $80 below last week's record settlement high of $1,218.30. To top of page

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