US STOCKS-Futures higher, Citigroup results on tap

Last Updated: Mon, Oct 15, 2012 12:00 hrs

* Banks to be in focus as Citigroup reports results

* S&P coming off worst week since June on bearish earnings

* Futures bolstered by hopes of Spain asking for aid

* Data on New York state manufacturing, U.S. retail sales on tap

* Futures up: Dow 46 pts, S&P 6.7 pts, Nasdaq 17 pts

By Ryan Vlastelica

NEW YORK, Oct 15 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures rose on Monday, tracking European shares higher on hopes Spain would soon request a bailout.

Equities are coming off their worst week since June, caused mainly by a discouraging start to the U.S. earnings season, especially by banks. That group will be in focus Monday with results from Citigroup Inc.

Spain could ask for financial aid from the euro zone next month, euro zone officials said, and if it does, the request would likely be dealt with alongside a revised loan program for Greece and a bailout for Cyprus in one big package. Spain's requesting help is viewed as a critical step for resolving the region's debt crisis.

"When Spain does request help, that will take another risk out of the market and give some positive pull," said Robert Pavlik, chief market strategist at Banyan Partners LLC in New York.

Citigroup shares rose 0.4 percent in premarket trading ahead of its results. On Friday, results from JPMorgan Chase & Co and Wells Fargo & Co sparked concern about shrinking profit margins for big lenders even though both companies reported stronger-than-expected earnings.

S&P 500 futures rose 6.7 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 46 points and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 17 points.

The S&P 500 closed right above its 50-day moving average of 1,428.38 on Friday, and that level may continue to serve as support.

Profits of S&P 500 companies are seen dropping 3 percent this quarter from a year ago, according to Thomson Reuters data. That would represent the first decline in three years and reflects China's slowing growth and Europe's debt crisis.

With only 6 percent of S&P companies having reported, 59 percent of companies have topped profit expectations - less than the average beat rate of 67 percent for the past four quarters, according to Thomson Reuters data. Half of companies have beaten on revenue, while a quarter missed profit forecasts.

"Earnings have looked decent on the surface, but when you delve into them there are still a lot of issues," Pavlik said. "There's still a lot of potential, but you have to be careful."

Sprint-Nextel Corp rose 2.4 percent to $5.87 in premarket trading after Japanese mobile operator Softbank Corp said it would buy up to 70 percent of the company for $20.1 billion. Reports on the deal based on sources led to steep gains in Sprint and its biggest-ever volume on Thursday.

Economic data on tap includes September retail sales and the New York Federal Reserve's October Empire State Manufacturing Survey, both at 8:30 a.m. (1230 GMT). Sales are seen rising 0.8 percent while analysts see an Empire State main manufacturing index reading of -4.55, compared with -10.41 in September.

August business inventory data will be released at 10 a.m., with a rise of 0.5 percent expected. While recent data has shown signs of strength, it hasn't been enough to offset the bearish tone from earnings.

Shares fell on Friday as the S&P declined for five of the past six sessions.

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