US STOCKS-Wall St to open higher as data point to growth

Last Updated: Sat, Mar 24, 2012 20:14 hrs

* Capital One to sell stock, gives outlook

* U.S. data shows continued economic improvement

* Futures up: Dow 28 pts, S&P 2.4 pts, Nasdaq 9.25 pts

By Chuck Mikolajczak

NEW YORK, March 15 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks were poised for a modestly higher open on Thursday, putting the S&P 500 on pace for its sixth advance in the last seven sessions as a host of economic data indicated the U.S. economy continues to slowly mend.

The S&P 500 snapped a five-day winning streak on Wednesday after advancing nearly 4 percent during the run, as investors found little reason to extend a rally that took the benchmark index to four-year highs.

On Thursday, Labor Department data showed new claims for unemployment benefits fell back to a four-year low last week, and producer prices, excluding food and energy, were contained.

The New York Federal Reserve also said the pace of manufacturing in the state picked up modestly in March.

"It is continued expansion in economic growth across the board," said Ryan Detrick, senior technical strategist at Schaeffer's Investment Research in Cincinnati.

"The claims obviously continue to improve, and that is the thing we are most encouraged by. The jobs continue to slowly improve, and this is clearly a step in the right direction," Detrick said. "This is continued strength that we've seen the last eight weeks or so - economic growth grows higher."

Manufacturing activity in the mid-Atlantic region will be in focus after the open with the release of the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank March business activity survey at 10 a.m. (1400 GMT).

S&P 500 futures added 2.4 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 rose 28 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures added 9.25 points.

Capital One Financial Corp shed 0.9 percent to $51.85 in premarket trade after the company said it would sell $1.25 billion of its common stock to pay for a portion of its acquisition of HSBC's U.S. credit card business and forecast a strong first-quarter profit.

Ross Stores Inc reported a higher profit for the holiday quarter as shoppers sought out popular clothing brands at discount prices, and the off-price chain forecast "respectable" sales and profit gains for this fiscal year. Shares edged down 0.1 percent to $56.50 premarket.

Three initial public offerings are set to make their debut on Thursday: cloud computing-based software company Demandware Inc, analog chipmaker M/A-Com Technology Solutions Holdings and Allison Transmission Holdings.

Cisco Systems said on Thursday it will buy NDS, a developer of software for multi-channel television networks, for $5 billion.

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