Futures Rise; Economy, Geithner in Focus

US stocks index futures made a tentative push higher ahead of the open Wednesday as investors braced for the latest round of economic data and looked for direction from Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.

Shares of UBS gained nearly 4 percent in premarket trading as new Chairman Kaspar Villiger prepares to take over for Peter Kurer.

UBS executive Mark Branson faces questioning from a Senate panel for the first time since the Swiss bank took responsibility for helping US clients hide assets from the government. The Swiss banking sector, famed for its secrecy, will be closely watching proceedings.

Hopes for a turnaround in the stock market received numerous body blows this week as the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 slumped below critical support levels.

But one person talking up the battered market was President Barack Obama, who said “buying stocks is a potentially good deal if you’ve got a long-term perspective on it,” at a press conference Tuesday.

Following on from appearances by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and Geithner Tuesday, the Treasury Secretary will speak at a Senate Finance Committee at 10 am New York time.

Investors will be looking for clear direction from Geithner on the ongoing economic crisis.

And beleaguered auto-maker General Motorscould have a potential buyer for its Saab brand, sources told Reuters. China's Geely Automobile and Dongfeng Motor Group have both shown an interest in the asset, the report said.

Shares of CNBC.com-parent General Electric showed a modest gain premarket, rising 1.3 percent as the stock slumps towards the pivotal $5 mark. Many funds are prohibited from owning stock that trades below $5, though there are other factors that can pre-empt an automatic sale.

Economic data looked likely to take center stage during the trading day, with ADP employment survey for February kicking things off at 8:15 am New York time. February’s ISM services index will be out at 10 am and the Federal Reserve’s Beige Book will be released at 2 pm.

On the earnings front, Costco Wholesale posted a 27 percent fall in second-quarter profit and missed analysts’ expectations, sending shares down 1.7 percent premarket. Toll Brothers beat analysts’ expectations with its quarterly results and said it expects to will deliver between 2,000 and 3,000 homes for 2009.

BJ's Wholesale was also expected to report earnings before the bell.