Futures Hold Gains After Economic Reports
U.S. stock index futures held their gains Wednesday following a pair of economic reports, a day after the Dow and S&P 500 closed at multi-year highs.
The Dow and S&P 500 rallied to finish at fresh five-year highs in the previous session. The Dow is now about 1 percent from hitting an all-time high, reached in October 2007. Both indexes have posted impressive gains so far in 2013, up more than 6.5 percent each.
But traders say the recent gains could leave the market vulnerable to a pullback amid a lack of significant catalysts. Monday marked the lightest volume trading day of 2013.
On the economic front, retail sales eked out a gain of 0.1 percent in January to a seasonally adjusted $416.6 billion as tax increases and rising gasoline prices held consumers back from spending, according to the Commerce Department. The reading was in line with estimates from a Reuters survey.
And import prices climbed 0.6 percent in January, according to the Labor Department, gaining for the first time since October as fuel prices jumped. Export prices rose a modest 0.3 percent.
European and Asian markets received a boost from President Barack Obama's State of the Union address, in which he laid out his second-term agenda and attempted to push past the fiscal battles that plagued his first term.
"Let's agree, right here, right now, to keep the people's government open, pay our bills on time, and always uphold the full faith and credit of the United States of America," Obama said in his speech.
(Read More: Obama to Republicans: Can We Just Move On?)
Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi analyst Derek Halpenny said policy implementation will nevertheless remain "arduous" for the President.
"There was a focus on increasing infrastructural investment, raising the minimum wage, reducing mortgage debt for households and agreeing a new trade deal with the EU," Halpenny said in a note on Wednesday morning.
"However, there was the usual criticism from Republicans about left-leaning policies that suggest a continued divided Congress, which will continue to make policy implementation an arduous task."
Also on the economic front, weekly mortgage applications fell last week, with purchase and refinance demand drying up as interest rates rose for the fourth week in a row, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.
The Commerce Department is scheduled to release December business inventories at 10 am ET. Economists surveyed by Reuters expect a gain of 0.3 percent, after a 0.4 percent increase in November.
Comcast announced that it will buy General Electric's entire 49 percent common equity stake in NBCUniversal for approximately $16.7 billion. Comcast also increased its dividend by 20 percent and said will repurchase $2 billion in stock in 2013. GE, meanwhile, said the sale will allow it to return more cash to shareholders. GE's board increased the size of its share repurchase plan to $35 billion and said it plans to buy back about $10 billion in shares this year. Credit Suisse raised its rating on Comcast to "outperform" from "neutral" and increased its price target to $48 from $40.
In addition, Comcast reported earnings of 52 cents a share on revenue of $15.94 billion.
(Read More: Comcast CEO: 'Bullish and Optimistic' About NBCU)
Dean Foods posted better-than-expected earnings thanks to cost cuts. But shares slumped after the company said it has decided retain up to 19.9 percent of its WhiteWave dairy line, as analysts expressed skepticism about the future of the milk business amid volatile costs and intense price competition from store brands.
Merck edged lower after the pharmaceutical giant said it sees first-quarter earnings of between 76 cents a share and 78 cents a share, excluding one-time items, well below current Wall Street expectations of 86 cents a share.
Crude oil inventories for last week will be released by the Energy Department at 10:30 am ET. Inventories rose by 2.62 million in the prior week.
The U.S. Treasury is scheduled to auction $24 billion in 10-year notes, with results available shortly after 1pm ET.
"Auction performance has been volatile recently at the 10-year sector, with refunding month auctions tending to underperform," wrote Barclays analysts Ajay Rajadhyaksha and Dean Maki. "Foreign investor participation has declined steadily in the sector, but has been mostly offset by an increase in domestic fund participation. While the sector has not cheapened recently, the price action over the previous six auctions suggests that it has not needed a set-up."
—By CNBC's JeeYeon Park (Follow JeeYeon on Twitter: @JeeYeonParkCNBC)
Coming Up This Week:
WEDNESDAY: Business inventories, oil inventories, Fed's Bullard speaks, 10-yr note auction; Earnings from Cisco, Applied Materials, MetLife
THURSDAY: Jobless claims, natural gas inventories, Fed's Bullard speaks, 30-yr bond auction, Fed balance sheet/money supply, 13-F filings; Earnings from General Motors, PepsiCo, Rio Tinto, CBS
FRIDAY: Empire state mfg survey, Treasury int'l capital, industrial production, Fed's Pianalto speaks, consumer sentiment, e-commerce retail sales, credit card default rates reported; Earnings from Campbell
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