US STOCKS-Futures edge higher, S&P 500 near record

by Reuters
Monday, 24 February 2014 12:24 GMT

* S&P 500 within points of record levels, may find resistance

* Emerging markets in focus after Ukraine president ousted

* Netflix shares fall, to pay Comcast for faster speeds

* Futures up: Dow 11 pts, S&P 2.6 pts, Nasdaq 5 pts

By Ryan Vlastelica

NEW YORK, Feb 24 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures edged higher on Monday, with the S&P 500 within points of its record high, though investors may have few reasons to push shares decisively above that level.

* Geopolitical uncertainty will continue to be in focus after Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich was ousted following deadly street protests, leaving a potential power vacuum and an ailing economy. Ukraine's finance ministry said the economy required $35 billion in foreign aid over the next two years, with the first tranche needed within two weeks.

* While most U.S. companies have limited direct exposure to Ukraine, investors are concerned that the instability in the region could spread throughout emerging markets. European shares dipped slightly on Monday.

* Investors are looking ahead to the Chicago Fed's National Activity index for January, due out at 8:30 a.m. (1330 GMT), as well as financial data firm Markit's preliminary February read on the services sector.

* Trading may be light, with few domestic catalysts to drive markets until Thursday, when Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen will speak to the Senate Banking Committee in her semi-annual testimony about monetary policy.

* Yellen's comments will be scoured for any insight into the extent to which bad weather has impacted economic activity, as well as for confirmation that the Fed will not make any changes to its schedule for trimming stimulus.

* S&P 500 futures rose 2.6 points and were above fair value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the contract. Dow Jones industrial average futures added 11 points and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 5 points.

* Wall Street stocks have recovered from the weakness they went through in late January, with the S&P 500 up 3 percent over the past three weeks. Investors have largely shrugged off a streak of weak economic data, blaming that on poor weather conditions rather than weakening fundamentals.

* However, the S&P has found resistance at 1,850.84, its record intraday level, which was hit on Jan. 15. The index is currently 0.8 percent away from that level.

* In company news, Netflix Inc has agreed to pay Comcast Corp for faster speeds, though terms of the agreement were not disclosed. Shares of Netflix fell 1.7 percent to $425.01 in light premarket trading.

* General Electric Co plans to intensify research focusing on complex energy projects such as waterless fracking and gas turbine efficiency by earmarking an additional $10 billion through 2020 for its "ecoimagination" budget.

* Tenet Healthcare, Frontier Communications Corp and EOG Resources Inc are all scheduled to report results after the market closes.

* U.S. stocks rose for much of the session on Friday, but turned lower late in the session on options-related trading.

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