Stocks: Waiting for a catalyst

nyse premarkets 021513
U.S. stocks finished up slightly on Friday.

U.S. investors begin the holiday-shortened week with what could be a quiet day of trading Tuesday.

U.S. stock futures were barely higher as investors remain cautious ahead of a series of reports about the housing sector.

The National Association of Home Builders is scheduled to release its Housing Market index at 10 a.m. ET. Economists are expecting the index to rise to 48 in February, showing builder confidence is at a six-year high.

Separate reports on housing starts and building permits will follow on Wednesday, and data on existing home sales will be released Thursday. Investors will also be closely watching housing stocks, including Lennar (LEN), Pulte (PHA), Toll Brothers (TOL) and D.R. Horton (DHI).

Shares of OfficeMax (OMX) surged 20%, while shares of Office Depot (ODP) jumped 29% in premarket trading, a day after media reports said the companies were in advanced merger talks, citing unnamed sources. Staples (SPLS), the other major office supplies retailer, also gained about 12%.

Best Buy (BBY)shares rose 5.5% in premarket trading after the electronics retailer announced late Friday that it plans to make its price-matching program permanent, starting March 3.

Dell (DELL)and controversial nutritional supplements company Herbalife (HLF) will announce their quarterly results after the closing bell.

A hearing is scheduled Tuesday in David Einhorn's lawsuit against Apple Inc (AAPL). Einhorn's hedge fund, Greenlight Capital has accused Apple of hoarding billions in cash and wants a judge to block a "bundled" shareholder vote, scheduled for Feb. 27. Einhorn wants shareholders to vote separately on an Apple proposal that would limit the company's ability to issue high-yielding preferred stock.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has called the lawsuit a "silly sideshow."

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U.S. stocks finished slightly higher Friday. Markets were closed Monday for the President's Day holiday.

Investors have been pulling back a bit after the strong start to the year. All three indexes are up between 5% and 7%, with the Dow just 1.3% shy of its all-time high, hit in October 200. The S&P 500 is about 4% below its record high, also set in October 2007.

Elizabeth Warren lashes out at regulators
Elizabeth Warren lashes out at regulators

European markets were firmer in afternoon trading, lifted by a stronger-than-expected reading from the latest ZEW survey of German investor sentiment. The euro gained against the dollar.

Asian markets closed lower. The Shanghai Composite lost 1.6%, the Hang Seng declined 1% and the Nikkei dropped 0.3%.

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Gas prices rose for the 33rd day in a row. Economists are monitoring rising gas prices to gauge whether they will take a bite out of consumer spending in February.

Nationwide, a gallon on unleaded gasoline averaged about $3.748 Tuesday, according to AAA. Gas prices have risen about 33 cents, or nearly 10%, since the beginning of February.

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