Futures Gain on Bernanke Remarks, Economic News

U.S. stock index futures rose as Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke gave a speech cementing Wall Street's view that more help is on the way, and the government released positive news on inflation and retail sales.

"There would appear—all else being equal—to be a case for further action," Bernanke said in remarks at a conference sponsored by the Boston Federal Reserve Bank, Reuters reported.

Bernanke also said a prolonged period of high unemployment could pose a risk to the recovery's sustainability and said the low level of inflation meant the risk of a dangerous downward slide in prices was greater than desirable.

The consumer price index rose 0.1 in September, unchanged from August, while excluding volatile food and energy prices, the CPI was unchanged.

Retail sales topped expectations, rising 0.6 percent, on sales of big ticket item, like autos and appliances, from a revised 0.7 gain in August. Analysts polled by Reuters had expected an increase of 0.4 percent for September.

Meanwhile, a measure of manufacturing in New York state rose faster than expected.

Futures earlier had been wobbly after CNBC parent and Dow component General Electric posted third-quarter earnings from continuing operations of 29 cents a share, versus estimates of 27 cents a share. Revenue for the quarter came in at $35.89 billion, below consensus estimates of $37.6 billion.

Shares of GE dropped 2.5 percent in pre-market trading.

Bernanke began speaking in Boston at 8:15 am New York time, with investors eager to gain clues on the Fed's quantitative easing strategy. (CNBC.com is streaming the speech live.)

Futures had been higher after strong earnings from Google and Advanced Micro Devices added positive sentiment to the technology sector.

Toymaker Mattel also beat expectations on the bottom linethough the company missed on the top line as its gross margins fell, causing its shares to drop sharply in pre-market trading.

The dollar continued to fall against a basket of foreign currencies, after Bernanke's comments confirmed the likelihood of Fed's intention to buy assets to boost the economy.

European shares were mostly higher with technology names leading the gains. Asian stocks ended mixed, but mostly in the red. The Shanghai Composite Index managed to rise more than 3 percent.

The University of Michigan's preliminary consumer sentiment index for October is out at 9:55 am. Economists expect a reading of 68.5, according to Briefing.com, which would be a slight improvement on the previous month.

Also in the economic diary, business inventory data for August is released at 10 a.m. Economists expect a rise of 0.5 percent, compared to a rise of 1.0 percent in July. And the Treasury will publish its September budget statement at 2 pm.

Shares of Gannett slipped after the media company said earnings per share excluding special items for the third quarter rose to 52 cents a share from 43 cents a year ago.

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