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Futures Hold Gains on Economic Signals

Stock index futures pointed to a modest gain on Wall Street as the market looks to wrap up August on a positive note.

Futures were little affected by the big economic news of the morning. Government data indicated a 0.2 percent gain in spending in July, helped mostly by the "Cash for Clunkers" auto trade-in program, but no gains in personal income.

Intel helped boost futures after the computer giant raised its outlook for the year. Shares gained more than 3 percent in premarket trading.

Most markets in both Asia and Europe rose, with investors awaiting more macroeconomic data for clearer near-term market direction.

But stocks in China fell, with the Shanghai Composite closing 2.9 percent lower, after China's banking regulator gave Chinese banks verbal instructions that they must not rush into end-of-the-month lending as the close of August draws near, Reuters reported.

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  • Wall Street also got a lift from luxury retailer Tiffany , whichreported that its profit fell 30 percent, but that was better than analyst estimates. The earings beat followed a familiar pattern for the second quarter—strong bottom-line profit yet weak top-line revenue—but the company's shares jumped 8 percent in premarket trading.

    To say the least, it's been a week of slight movement on Wall Street. This is best exemplified by the S&P 500, which moved less than a point on both Monday and Wednesday, and less than three points on Tuesday and Thursday. For the week, the S&P is up a little less than five points.

    But those modest trends are still bullish in nature. The Dow is riding an eight-session winning streak, though it, too, has seen only modest moves in recent sessions.

    The Dow, the S&P 500, and the Nasdaq are all moderately higher for the week, and if they can hold those gains, they'll complete a sixth week of gains out of the last seven. The S&P and the Nasdaq are also on pace to complete a sixth straight month of gains.

    Sentiment is getting a boost from Dell , which reported a stronger than expected quarterly profit as well as signs that its business is stabilizing. That report came after Thursday's closing bell and helped boost the stock in after-hours trading.

    Dell shares gained more than 3 percent premarket.

    At 9:55 am New York time, the University of Michigan is out with its latest consumer sentiment index. Earlier this week, the Conference Board's consumer confidence index registered a much better than expected increase, so a jump in this measure could be in the offing as well.

    — Peter Schacknow contributed to this report.