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US STOCKS-Futures gain after 4-week rally; factory orders on tap

Chuck Mikolajczak
Monday, 4 Nov 2013 | 8:06 AM ET

* Euro zone manufacturing picks up in October

* Weyerhaeuser to sell homebuilding unit for $2.7 bln

* U.S. factory orders data on tap

* Futures up: Dow 51 pts, S&P 5.9 pts, Nasdaq 16.25 pts

NEW YORK, Nov 4 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures advanced on Monday, indicating the S&P 500 will continue to rise after four straight weeks of gains and build on its latest record high.

The benchmark S&P index has risen 4.2 percent over the past four weeks as the partial U.S. government shutdown in October pushed back expectations for the Federal Reserve to begin curtailing its stimulus measures into the first quarter of 2014.

But recent manufacturing data has come in stronger than expected, lending weight to the possibility the economy could handle an earlier-than-expected tapering of the central bank's bond-buying program.

"Given the government shutdown, conventional wisdom had tapering delayed until next year, however, given the recent data an earlier tapering is certainly on the table for December," said Andre Bakhos, managing director at Janlyn Capital LLC in Bernardsville, New Jersey.

"Whether it happens in December or the next several months after that, investors are keenly aware that it will happen and at some point that dynamic will end."

Still, St. Louis Federal Reserve President James Bullard told CNBC television the Fed should not rush a decision to scale back its asset purchase program because of low inflation.

Adding to optimism, a survey on Monday showed euro zone manufacturing activity accelerated in October as new orders increased for a fourth month, although strong competition left factories with scant room to raise prices.

Economic data expected on Monday includes August and September factory orders at 10:00 a.m. (1500 GMT). Economists in a Reuters survey expect August factory orders to rise 0.3 percent versus a 2.4 percent drop in July orders while September orders are expected to be up 1.7 percent.

S&P 500 futures rose 5.9 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 51 points and Nasdaq 100 futures added 16.25 points.

Weyerhaeuser Co is selling its homebuilding division to Tri Pointe Homes Inc in a $2.7 billion deal that will leave Weyerhaeuser shareholders in control of one of the 10 largest homebuilders in the United States.

Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd is struggling to raise financing for its $4.7 billion bid for BlackBerry Ltd , with several large banks declining to participate on concerns that the smartphone maker will not be able to reverse its fortunes, according to people familiar with the matter. Still, U.S.-listed shares of BlackBerry Ltd rose 3.5 percent to $8.04 in premarket trade.

Anadarko Petroleum Corp is considering the sale of its holdings in oil and gas projects in China in a deal that could be valued at about $1 billion, sources familiar with the matter said.

In Europe, shares in banking heavyweight HSBC gained on strong results, in a rising market supported at five-year highs by expectations of additional monetary stimulus from the European Central Bank.

Asian stocks eased in sluggish trade amid investor caution ahead of central bank meetings in Europe and the release of the U.S. payrolls report.