Wall Street set for sharp gains as investors await key Italy vote, Zynga ralliesMonday, February 25th, 2013
U.S. stock futures pointed sharply higher on Monday morning as investors awaited the results of the Italian election, in a week set to be dominated by politics with the sequester deadline looming.
The sequester refers to the $85 billion in spending cuts set to take effect March 1 unless a compromise between Democrats and Republicans can be reached, with lawmakers to return for a one week break today and a vote scheduled for tomorrow.
Futures on the three main U.S. market indices were up between 0.4% and 0.8%, with the Nasdaq leading the gains.
Friday, stocks rebounded, with the Dow moving up 120 points as Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ) hit a six-month high and positive German economic data supported stocks, amid Federal Reserve officials easing concerns that the central bank’s asset purchase program would end sooner than expected.
Monday, there were no major economic reports on the economic calendar, but Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhard will speak at 7pm ET about the economic outlook.
Investors are also looking ahead to testimony to Congress about monetary policy from Fed chairman Ben Bernanke Tuesday and Wednesday, which has typically sent markets higher in the past.
Global gains inspired a rally in U.S. equity futures, with European stocks higher ahead of Italian election polls closing at 9am ET this morning. The vote could reverse the work of the austerity and reform program of Prime Minister Mario Monti, with concerns on what strong support for Silvio Berlusconi could mean for markets.
Europe gains were seen as Japan shares reached multi-year highs on reports about potential pro-stimulus appointments to the Bank of Japan.
On the corporate front, shares of Zynga (NASDAQ:ZNGA) jumped more than 11% premarket, pushing futures on the Nasdaq higher as Nevada last week became the first U.S. state to allow online gambling within its borders.
The fast move, which beat New Jersey to the punch, is helpful for the social game developer, which appealed to Nevada regulators last year in an effort to transition its struggling business into online real-money gambling. The company has struggled to turn its mobile games into a meaningful source of revenue.
Shares of Barnes & Noble (NYSE:BKS) were also in focus, up more than 17% after the Wall Street Journal reported that Leonard Riggio, the company’s chairman and largest shareholder, could be interested in buying out the retailer and potentially splitting the company in two.
In earnings news, home improvement retailer Lowe’s (NYSE:LOW) said its fourth quarter earnings fell 11% on slumping revenue, though same store sales were higher than expected.
The company also forecast a profit for the year that came in short of analyst estimates, and unveiled a $5 billion share buyback program over the next two years.
April crude futures surged this morning on global equities gains, up $1.04 to $94.17 a barrel in electronic trade, while gold futures also gained $19.20 to $1,592.00 an ounce.
European markets were broadly higher today in early afternoon trade with shares in Germany leading the region. The DAX was up 2.45% while France’s CAC 40 was lately higher by 1.63% and the U.K.’s FTSE 100 gained 0.65% despite the fact that Moody’s cut the U.K’s sovereign rating to Aa1 from Aaa.