Futures Point to Slight Rebound; HP Slips

Stock index futures pointed to a slight rebound for Wall Street on Wednesday after stocks tumbled in the previous session amid growing concern over the political turmoil in Libya, where Moammar Gaddafi vowed to crush the revolution.

The unrest drove April crude oil sharply higher Tuesday, while Iran’s decision to send two war ships from the Suez Canal into the Mediterranean Sea further boosted the price of oil.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Tuesday accused Iran of trying to exploit the uprisings in the region and to use its influence to thwart democratic reform.

Among the morning's earnings reports, Lowe's reported a profit that beat expectations. This comes after a day rival Home Depotreported an upbeat quarter, raised its sales and earnings forecasts and boosted its dividend.

Luxury homebuilder Toll Brothers swung to a profit, helped in part by an increase in the average delivery price of homes it sold.

Car-rental company Hertz posted a better-than-expected profit, helped by strong growth at its US off-airport business.

Saks reported a profit as it sold more items at full price, and the luxury department store chain said it expects higher sales at existing stores to continue this year.

Among the notable after-the-bell reports today are Priceline.com and Limited Brands .

Tech shares will be in the spotlight after Hewlett-Packard trimmed its 2011 revenue projectionson weak consumer PC demand and a lackluster showing from its IT services arm, sending its shares plummeting 12 percent in after-hours trading.

Apple is expected to hold a shareholder meeting this afternoon where investors will vote on a resolution that may force the company board to disclose its succession plans.

Meanwhile, Nasdaq OMX is exploring options that include teaming up with a partner on a rival bidfor NYSE Euronext , according to a person familiar with the situation.

The alternatives include the possibility of tying up with IntercontinentalExchange or CME Group to wrest NYSE Euronext out of its deal with Deutsche Boerse, the person said.

On the economic front, home loan requests jumped 13.2 percent last weekas rates eased and encouraged refinancing, according to the Mortgage Banker's Association.

Investors will also be watching January existing home sales data, due at 10 am ET, and the Treasury's auction of $35 billion in 5-year notes at 1pm ET.

Existing home sales are expected to fall in January to an annualized rate of 5.23 million units from 5.28 million, a Briefing.com poll of economists showed.

Philadelphia Federal Reserve President Charles Plosser is expected to speak at 1:30 pm ET on the outlook for the economy, and Kansas City Fed President Thomas Hoenig speaks at 12:30 pm ET at an event on housing and finance.

Chicago Federal Reserve President Charles Evans said on Wednesday Federal Reserve policy was likely to remain accommodative for some time yet.

Investors are increasingly focused on inflation pressures and will continue to debate how high oil prices might affect the economic recovery.

Minutes to the Bank of England's latest meeting showed an increase in the number of Monetary Policy Committee members who voted in favor of a rate hike, raising expectations that the Bank of England will be among the first to raise interest rates.

Moreover, the report suggested that some of those opposed a rate hike this month would consider if it if the economy shows signs of picking up after an unexpected fall in output at the end of 2010.

European stocks were lower, with tech shares among the top losers.

On Tap This Week:

WEDNESDAY: Existing home sales, Philadelphia Fed President Plosser speaks, Kansas City Fed President Hoenig speaks, 5-year Treasury note auction; Earnings after-the-bell from Limited Brands, Priceline.com, and Transocean.
THURSDAY: Durable goods orders, jobless claims, USDA agricultural trade outlook, new home sales, natural gas inventories, oil inventories, 7-year Treasury note auction, money supply; earnings before-the-bell from General Motors, Kohl's, Newmont Mining, Safeway, Sears and Target; earnings after-the-bell from AIG, First Solar, Gap and Salesforce.
FRIDAY: GDP (second reading), consumer sentiment; earnings before-the-bell from JCPenney.

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