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Futures Gain Despite Consumer Spending

Stock index futures rose ahead of the open Monday despite news consumer spending rose at a slower pace than income growth last month.

Consumer spending gained 0.2 percent in January, the Commerce Department reported. Economists surveyed by Reuters had forecasted spending would rise by 0.4 percent. Incomes, meanwhile, rose 1.0 percent last month, the largest increase since May 2009, while savings gained the most since August, rising to $677.1 billion from $620.9 billion in December.

Reassurances from Saudi Arabia that extra supply needs had been metsomewhat eased investor concerns, although the potential effects of rising energy costs on the economic recovery remain worrisome.

Stocks rose on Friday, bouncing back from a three-day sell-off.

Oil prices rose more than $1 per barrel early on Monday as protests in Oman fueled wider concern about security of supply from the Middle East, but prices turned lower after Saudi Aramco CEO Khalid al-Falih said the shortfall resulting from violent uprisings in OPEC member Libya had been made up.

Late on Friday, J.P. Morgan upped its forecast for 2011 Brent crude by nearly 14 percent as supply tightens on lower Libyan output.

The week is full of economic reports, including January pending home sales from the National Association of Realtors at 10 a.m. and the Chicago Purchasing Managers Index is released at 9:45 a.m. The index was expected to fall to 67.5 from 68.8 in January, a Briefing.com poll showed.

But the big economic news of the week is Friday, when the nonfarm payroll report for February is released. Some economists expect as many as 200,000 nonfarm payrolls were added in February, after January's disappointing addition of just 36,000 non farm payrolls, about 100,000 below expectations.

Berkshire Hathaway's shares gained after Warren Buffett delivered upbeat words on the future of the American economy in a letter to shareholders. In the letter, Buffett said: 'My trigger finger is itchy' for major aqcquisitions."

On the earnings front, AES and Edison are among companies due to report results before the bell, while Range Resources releases earnings figures after the closing bell.

In other company news, HSBC, Europe’s biggest bank, cut its profitability targetsdue to the cost of tougher banking regulation and disappointed investors with below-forecast 2010 earnings. The stock fell sharply in London trade on Monday morning.

Private equity firm Blackstone will also be in the spotlight after Reuters cited sources as saying the group has won a contest to buy the U.S. shopping mall assets of Australia's debt-laden Centro Properties with an offer of about $9.4 billion.

On Tap Next Week:

MONDAY: Chicago purchasing managers index, pending home sales, Dallas Fed survey, farm prices; Boston Fed president Rosengren speaks.
TUESDAY: Auto sales, ISM manufacturing index, construction spending; Fannie/Freddie reform hearing before House financial services committee; and Bernanke's semi-annual report on monetary policy to Congress.
WEDNESDAY: Mortgage applications, Challenger job-cut report, ADP employment report, oil inventories, Federal Reserve's Beige Book; Atlanta Fed President Lockhart speaks; earnings before-the-bell from BJ's, Costco and Staples.
THURSDAY: Chain store sales, ECB announcement, Monster employment index, jobless claims, productivity and costs, ISM non-manufacturing index, natural gas inventories, money supply; Minneapolis Fed President Kocherlakota speaks, Atlanta Fed President Lockhart speaks; earnings before-the-bell from Heinz, Kroger; earnings-after-the-bell from Novell.
FRIDAY: Non-farm payrolls report, factory orders; Federal Budget Deadline.

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