U.S. stock index futures gained Monday as Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke's speech on the economy gave investors reason to believe interest rates will stay low and even showed signs that further quantitative easing from the central bank may be on the horizon.
Bernanke said the U.S. economy needs to grow more quickly if it is to produce enough jobs to bring down the unemployment rate further adding that the recent decline in the jobless rate to 8.3 percent in February was "somewhat out of sync" with the modest pace of economic growth.
"Further significant improvements in unemployment will likely require faster economic growth than we experienced during the past year,'' Bernanke told a gathering of the National Association for Business Economics.
Still, analysts seemed to be encouraged after Bernanke did not seem to rule out the possibility of further quantitiative easing.
However, others such as Art Hogan of Lazard Capital Markets were skeptical of QE3.
"I think we continue to grind higher and today’s going to be part of that," said Hogan. "I don’t think he’s opened any windows here—my guess is we’re not going to be talking about what he just said by 11 am."
Lions Gate Entertainment jumped after the move "The Hunger Games" opened with an impressive $155 million at U.S. and Canadian box offices, logging Hollywood's third-highest domestic film opening and easily beating expectations.
Yahoo appointed three new independent directors as it prepares for a proxy fight with activist hedge fund investor Daniel Loeb.
BATS Global Markets CEO Joe Ratterman apologized over the weekend for a system failure that caused the exchange operator to trade erroneously for less than a penny on its market debut Friday and resulted in Apple's shares being temporarily halted. The company's withdrawn initial public offering has been put on hold "for the foreseeable future."
On the economic front, pending home sales data for February will be released at 10 a.m. New York time. Economists polled by Briefing.com expect a 0.5 percent rise, compared with a 2 percent rise in January.
Brent crude oil edged below $125, with supply concerns due to Western sanctions against Iran offset by news that Sudan may resume production.
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Coming Up This Week:
MONDAY: Pending home sales index, Dallas Fed mfg surveyTUESDAY: S&P Case-Shiller home price index, consumer confidence, 2-yr note auction, Fed's Rosengren speaks; Earnings from Lennar, WalgreenWEDNESDAY: Weekly mortgage apps, durable goods orders, oil inventories, 5-yr note auction, Fed's Bullard speaks, FDA discusses obesity drugsTHURSDAY: GDP, jobless claims, corporate profits, Fed's Plosser speaks, 7-yr note auction, farm prices, Fed's Lacker speaks; Earnings from Best Buy, Research In MotionFRIDAY: Personal income & outlays, Chicago PMI, consumer sentiment, Stringer's last day as Sony CEO
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