Stocks set to jump at open

By staff

NEW YORK( -- U.S. stocks were poised to start September with a bang Wednesday, as investors aimed to put last month's dour performance behind them.

Dow Jones industrial average (INDU), S&P 500 (SPX) and Nasdaq (COMP) futures were up more than 1% ahead of the opening bell.

Futures measure current index values against perceived future performance.

Investors are keen to start the new month on a positive note, following a lackluster August. The Dow slipped 4.3%, the S&P 500 fell 4.7%, and the Nasdaq lost 6.2% in the month.

"The positive manufacturing news is really helping markets start strong," said Philip Isherwood, equities strategist at Evolution Securities. "Chinese manufacturing rebounded and helped persuade investors that China isn't headed for a downturn, and Indian and Russian manufacturing was also strong."

Economists are expecting data due later Wednesday to show that U.S. manufacturing eased in August. Isherwood said as long as the figures are significantly weaker than forecasts, investors will discount that data and markets will remain in positive territory.

Economy: Planned job cuts plummeted to a 10-year low in August, as employers shed 34,768, down 17% from the previous month, according to outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

A separate report from payroll processing firm ADP showed that employers cut 10,000 jobs in August. Economists were expecting private sector employers to add 13,000 jobs during the month, after adding 37,000 in July.

After the start of trading, the Institute for Supply Management's (ISM) index of manufacturing is expected. Economists forecast the index to have eased to 52.9 in August, from 55.5 in July. Any number above 50 indicates growth in the sector.

Separately, the government is set to issue a report on construction spending. The reading is expected to show that spending dropped 0.7% in July, after gaining 0.1% in June.

Auto and truck sales are due throughout the day, and the government's weekly oil inventory report is also on tap.

Companies: Shares of Burger King Holdings (BKC) jumped 16.7%, following a report that the fast food chain is considering a possible sale to buyout firms. The Wall Street Journal reported that that private equity firms that have expressed interest in buying Burger King include Britain's 3i Group.

Apple's (AAPL, Fortune 500) stock was up 1% in premarkets as investors geared up for the company's annual music-themed special event. CEO Steve Jobs is expected to unveil its newest iPods and advances in the iTunes music store.

Shares of BP (BP) climbed 2.2% as the oil giant said it has agreed to sell its interests in ethylene and polyethylene production in Malaysia to government-owned Petronas for $363 million in cash.

World markets: European shares rose in afternoon trading. The FTSE 100 in Britain jumped 1.3%, the CAC 40 in France added 1.7% and the DAX in Germany gained 1%.

In Asia, Japan's benchmark Nikkei index gained nearly 1.2%, rebounding after hitting a 16-month low on Tuesday, and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong rose 0.4%. the Shanghai Composite fell 0.6%, despite a report that showed China's manufacturing sector bounced back in August after several months of slowing.

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

Currency trading volume around the world has hit $4 trillion a day, a 20% jump compared to 2007, said the Bank of International Settlement.

Oil futures for October delivery rose 65 cents to $72.57 a barrel. Gold for December delivery climbed $3.60 to $1,253.90.

Bonds: The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.53% from 2.48% late Tuesday. To top of page

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