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US STOCKS-Futures gain, set to extend rally; jobs data due

Source : REUTERS
Last Updated: Wed, Mar 06, 2013 13:00 hrs

* Futures up: S&P 5.4 pts, Dow 44 pts, Nasdaq 9.5 pts

* Rally looks set to continue after Dow record

* ADP private sector employment report on tap

By Leah Schnurr

NEW YORK, March 6 (Reuters) - Wall Street looked set to continue its rally on Wednesday, after the Dow set a new record a day earlier and ahead of data on the labor market.

Signs of a strengthening U.S. economy, continued support from the Federal Reserve, and fairly attractive valuations compared with other assets have helped U.S. equities rally this year.

On Tuesday, the Dow ended at 14,253.77, breaking through October 2007's record close of 14,164.53. For the year, the Dow is up more than 8 percent. The S&P has gained 8 percent in the first three months of the year and is less than 2 percent below its record close.

"I think this is a happiness hangover," said Kim Forrest, senior equity research analyst at Fort Pitt Capital Group in Pittsburgh.

"What's happening today is probably people that had been extremely risk adverse during the roller coaster ride are now feeling comfortable and, sadly, that's really not the time to buy in when we're hitting new highs."

Forrest said investor attention should start to turn to the labor market, with the closely watched non-farm payroll report due on Friday. Despite signs of strength in some areas of the economy, the labor market has been healing only slowly.

Investors will get an early look at the jobs market with a report on private sector hiring due at 8:15 a.m. ET (1315 GMT). Companies are expected to have added 170,000 jobs last month.

S&P 500 futures rose 5.4 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 gained 44 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures added 9.5 points.

Overnight in Europe, stock markets rose to their highest since the 2008 financial crisis. The European Central Bank, the Bank of England and the Bank of Japan are all expected to stick to ultra-easy monetary policy at meetings this week.

Other U.S. data on tap includes factory orders for January and the Fed's Beige Book of economic conditions.

EU antitrust regulators fined Microsoft 561 million euros ($731 million) for breaking a promise to offer European consumers a choice of web browser. Shares were off 0.7 percent at $28.15 in premarket trading.

Smith & Wesson Holding Corp posted its biggest quarterly revenue and raised its full-year sales outlook for the third time as buyers stocked up on firearms before tighter gun control laws come into force.




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