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US STOCKS-Futures little changed as market awaits Bernanke, data

Source : REUTERS
Last Updated: Wed, Feb 27, 2013 13:40 hrs

* Fed Chairman Bernanke to speak at 10:00 a.m. ET

* Italy bonds, European stocks up after Italy bond auction

* Futures: S&P up 2.1 pts, Dow off 1 pt, Nasdaq up 4 pts

By Angela Moon

NEW YORK, Feb 27 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures were little changed on Wednesday as investors awaited a second round of testimony in Congress by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke for signs of whether the Fed will continue its economic stimulus program.

Economic data was also in focus with U.S. durables goods and homes data due out at 8:30 a.m. ET (1330) GMT and 10:00 a.m. ET (1500 GMT), respectively.

Bernanke will make his second appearance before the Financial Services Committee at 10:00 a.m. ET (1500 GMT).

"Of course, Bernanke is in the spotlight again but I don't expect him to vary from his comments from yesterday," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Global Capital in New York.

A day earlier, Bernanke strongly defended the Fed's monetary stimulus efforts before Congress, easing financial market worries over an early retreat from the Fed's bond buying program, which had been triggered by minutes of the Fed's January meeting released a week ago.

His remarks, along with data showing sales of new homes hit a 4 1/2-year high, helped U.S. stocks rebound Tuesday from their worst decline since November.

Despite the bounce, the S&P 500 was unable to move back above 1,500, a closely watched level that had been technical support until recently, but may now prove a resistance point.

The benchmark S&P 500, up 6 percent for the year, was within reach of record highs a week ago before the minutes from the Fed's January meeting were released. Since then, the index has shed 1 percent as the minutes raised questions about the longevity of the Fed's economy-stimulating measures.

S&P 500 futures rose 2.1 points and were in line with 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 1 points while Nasdaq 100 futures added 4 points.

In earnings news, Target Corp posted a lower quarterly profit as sales of food and value-priced items only partially mitigated weakness in holiday spending. The stock fell 1.7 percent to $62.99 in premarket trading.

Dollar Tree Inc reported a higher quarterly profit as the chain controlled costs and as consumer spending improved. The stock rose 4.5 percent to $42.91 in premarket trading.

In Europe, shares rose, steadying after the previous session's sharp losses, though jitters over the euro zone kept a lid on gains.

Italy's 10-year debt costs rose more than half a percentage point at the first longer-term auction since an inconclusive parliamentary election, although they remained below the psychologically important level of 5 percent.




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