Connect to share and comment

US STOCKS-Wall Street to open little changed ahead of data

PlacardEnlarge
(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

* Burger King profit jumps, shares follow

* Herbalife shares soar after Icahn discloses ownership

* Futures: Dow off 12 pts, S&P flat, Nasdaq up 2 pts

By Rodrigo Campos

NEW YORK, Feb 15 (Reuters) - Wall Street was set to open little changed on Friday, continuing a trend this week of thin trading and tight moves, with the S&P 500 struggling to extend its weekly streak of gains to seven.

Slight declines in stock index futures were trimmed after data showed manufacturing in New York state expanded in February for the first time in seven months, boosted by a surge of new orders.

The S&P 500, up 6.7 percent so far this year, is facing strong technical resistance near the 1,525 level. But investors, expecting the index to advance further in the quarter, have held back from locking in profits.

A surge in merger and acquisition activity, with more than $158 billion in deals announced so far in 2013, has given support to the equity market as it points to healthy valuations and bets on the economic outlook.

"No retracement of this move is positive; it shows underlying support for this market," said Art Hogan, managing director of Lazard Capital Markets in New York.

He said the flurry of mergers and acquisitions should be seen as a tailwind for the market.

"You don't go into M&A if you don't have a positive outlook," Hogan said.

S&P 500 futures were unchanged but below 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 fell 12 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures edged up 2 points.

Traders will eye the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers preliminary February consumer sentiment index at 9:55 a.m. (1455 GMT). Consumer sentiment is expected to be slightly higher at 74.8 in February, compared with 73.8 in January.

Herbalife shares soared 18.6 percent in premarket trading a day after billionaire investor Carl Icahn said in a regulatory filing that he now owns 13 percent of Herbalife and was ready to put it in play.

Burger King Worldwide shares jumped 6.8 percent in premarket trading after it beat estimates with a 94 percent rise in fourth-quarter profit, thanks to new menu additions.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/thomson-reuters/130215/us-stocks-wall-street-open-little-changed-ahead-data