US STOCKS-Futures point to higher open, S&P 500 near record

by Reuters
Monday, 24 February 2014 14:05 GMT

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

* Emerging markets in focus after Ukraine president ousted

* Men's Wearhouse raises offer for Jos. A. Bank

* Netflix shares fall, to pay Comcast for faster speeds

* Futures up: Dow 42 pts, S&P 5.2 pts, Nasdaq 13.25 pts

By Ryan Vlastelica

NEW YORK, Feb 24 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures pointed to a higher open on Monday, putting 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 worry that the instability in the region could spread throughout emerging markets.

* In the latest U.S. data, the National Activity index fell to -0.39 in January from 0.16 in December while financial data firm Markit's preliminary February read on the services sector fell from 56.7 to 52.7.

* Pfizer Inc shares rose after the company said that its drug Prevenar 13 prevented community-acquired pneumonia in individuals age 65 and older in a study.

* Verizon Communications Inc shares dipped 0.7 percent to $46.92 in premarket trading after the company gave a 2014 revenue outlook.

* S&P 500 futures rose 5.2 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 42 points and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 13.25 points.

* Wall Street stocks have recovered from weakness in late January, with the S&P 500 having gained 3 percent over the past three weeks. Investors have largely shrugged off a recent slew of weak economic data, blaming it on a harsh winter rather than weakening fundamentals.

* Still, 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, Men's Wearhouse Inc raised its cash tender offer for rival men's clothing retailer Jos. A. Bank Clothiers Inc JOSB.O to $63.50 per share from $57.50. Shares of Men's Wearhouse rose 5.3 percent in premarket trading while Jos. A. Bank was up 8.9 percent.

* 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.

* U.S. shares of BlackBerry Ltd rose in premarket trading after the company said it would make its messaging service BBM available to Microsoft's Windows Phone and the upcoming Nokia X platforms in the coming months.

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

* 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 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.

* 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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