US stock index futures pointed to a slightly higher open Tuesday, having slumped to a 12-year closing low in the previous session, as investors braced for economic data and a testimony from Federal Reserve Chief Ben Bernanke.
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Bernanke is scheduled to give part one of his testimony on the economy and monetary policy before the Senate Banking Committee at 10 am New York time.
Citigroup, the subject of intense speculation on whether the government will take a major interest in the troubled bank, saw its shares gain nearly 5 percent in premarket trading. Citi CEO Richard Parsons met Monday night with Valerie Jarrett, a top aide to President Obama, intensifying speculation of the government's interest in helping Citi, Politico reported on its Web site.
Home Depot shares gained nearly 3 percent in premarket trading after the home improvement retailer reported a net loss of $54 million, or 3 cents a share. But excluding items, the profit came to 19 cents a share, which beat estimates of 15 cents.
Also, shares of Medco Health Solutions edged higher after the pharmacy benefits manager said its fourth-quarter profit rose 32 percent.
In corporate news, state-owned insurance giant American Insurance Group is seeking fresh capital from the government, CNBC has learned, ahead of what is expected to be the biggest loss in American corporate history. AIG shares fell 5.7 percent premarket.
And former Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain will testify on bonuses paid out to the bank’s executives in the run up to its merger with Bank of America . The order to appear in court comes after Thain refused to provide more information about the payouts.
Nationalizing insolvent US banks is the best solution to avoid a Japan-like scenario in which 'zombie' financial institutions would eat up public resources while the US economy would teeter on the brink of depression, Nouriel Roubini, economics professor NYU and chairman at RGE Monitor told CNBC.
Market sentiment may change if radical action is taken, Roubini added.
In the biotechnology sector, members of Genentech's board advised shareholders to rejectRoche's $42 billion bid for part of the company. The board’s committee said the price offered was not in shareholders’ interest.
The European banking sector also remained in focus following reports from the Financial Times that the UK government could scrap Lloyds’annual interest charge on loans from the government, in the hope of boosting lending.
And UBS may face a trial in the US as it wrangles with calls to disclose the details of thousands of its clients suspected of tax evasion, according to the New York Times.
Meanwhile, a report by the Wall Street Journal highlighted the link between members of US Vice President Joe Biden’s family and the fraudulent Texas financier Allen Stanford. A fund of hedge funds run by two of Biden's family was marketed exclusively by firms controlled by Stanford, the report said. Biden’s office was unavailable for comment.
Investors will be sifting through a flurry of earnings before the bell. Domino's Pizza, HJ Heinz, Office Depot, RadioShack and many more will report numbers ahead of the trading day.
On the economic front, the December Case-Shiller home price index will be released at 9 am and February’s consumer confidence will be released at 10 am.
Other Fed officials taking to the stage are, Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher, who will speak on the financial crisis at Smithfield, Rhode Island at 11.30 am. And Fed Governor Elizabeth Duke will talk about community reinvestment at noon.