Stocks set for rise on European hopes

By staff

NEW YORK( -- U.S. stocks were set to move higher Wednesday amid ongoing optimism over a potential rescue plan for Europe's debt-ridden nations.

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

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

Wall Street surged Tuesday, lifted by reports that Germany may offer aid to Greece to manage its mounting debt problems.

Hopes that such a rescue would keep the debt crisis in Europe from spilling over and putting the brakes on the global economic recovery helped the Dow gain 150 points, or 1.5%.

"I think the story of the day remains the prospects of the bailout for Greece," said Peter Carillo, chief market economist for Avalon Partners. "It might not be as vivacious as yesterday, but for the moment we're still on the rescue plan rally."

Economy: The Commerce Department is due to release the December trade balance. The January Treasury budget is also on tap.

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke was due to appear before the House Financial Services Committee hearing on the unwinding of Fed liquidity programs, but the hearing was postponed due to snow.

The Fed, however, may still release Bernanke's planned testimony about the programs that were put in place at the height of the financial crisis.

Earnings: Companies due to release earnings include Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE, Fortune 500) and Sprint Nextel (S, Fortune 500).

Steel company Arcelor Mittal (MT) reported a fourth-quarter profit of more than $1 billion, compared to a loss of $2.6 billion in the year-earlier quarter. For all of 2009, the company reported a profit of $118 million.

Disney (DIS, Fortune 500) reported quarterly profit and sales that topped Wall Street's expectations. Shares of the company, which posted its results after U.S. markets closed Tuesday, rose in extended trading.

World markets: Stocks in Europe jumped in morning trading. Benchmark indexes in France, Germany and the UK all were up more than 1%. Asian shares ended the session in positive territory.

Cash and bonds: The price of the 10-year note rose, pushing down the yield to 3.63%. The dollar rose against the euro and the pound but slipped versus the yen.

Oil and gold: The price of oil edged up 14 cents to $73.89 per barrel. The price of gold rose $4.40 per ounce to $1,081.10. To top of page

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