Futures Remain Up After Durable Goods

Stock index futures held modest gains ahead of the open Wednesday after news that durable goods orders rose more than expected last month.

Futures had been higher amid another slew of earnings reports and before a press conference by Ben Bernanke to be held at 2:15 p.m., after the Federal Reserve's policy setting committee meets. The chairman is widely expected to say the economy still needs the central bank's monetary support. The central bank will release a statement after its meeting at 12:30 p.m.

Other central banks have already raised interest rates or signaled they will, and some hawkish Fed officials have voiced concerns over the Fed’s plans to keep rates low for a longer period of time.

New orders for durable goods rose 2.5 percent in March from an upwardly revised 0.7 percent rise in February, according to the Commerce Department. Economists had expected a rise of about 2 percent, Reuters said.

Rating agency S&Pcut its rating outlook for Japan to negative, saying the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster would hurt the country’s public finances. The move had little impact on stocks, which remain focused on earnings.


Amazon.com reported disappointing earnings after the bell Tuesday but raised its revenue guidance for the second quarter.

Boeing traded flat after beating analyst earnings estimates for its first quarter, but the aircraft maker delivered a disappointing full-year forecast.

Several oil companies are reporting earnings this week. In London, BP reported a fall in first-quarter profit before the European open Wednesday, with the cost of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill still hurting profits.

ConocoPhillips fell despite a rise in quarterly earnings as the oil giant said its oil and gas production was hurt by the conflict in Libya and by the closure of a pipeline.

Oil prices, meanwhile, rose slightly as the dollar continued to weaken against a basket of currencies. London Brent crude rose above $124 a barrel, while U.S. light crude rose above $112.

The government will release oil inventories at 10:30 a.m.

In other company news, said it had struck a deal to buy Swiss medical device maker Synthes for $21.3 billion.

And Merck rose slightly after its board approved $5 billion in stock buybacks.

On the economic front, the Mortgage Bankers Association's index of home loan activityfell 5.6 percent in the week ended April 22. The MBA blamed higher insurance premiums for government-insured loans for hurting demand.

On Tap This Week:

WEDNESDAY: Oil inventories, 5-year Treasury note auction; earnings after-the-bell from eBay, Starbucks, Allstate, Baidu, Citrix, Flowserve, and Norfolk Southern.
THURSDAY: GDP, jobless claims, pending home sales, 7-year Treasury note auction; earning before-the-bell from AstraZeneca, Deutsche Bank, Exxon Mobil, PepsiCo, P&G, Royal Dutch Shell, Sanofi-Aventis, Bristol Myers, Discovery Communications, Dow Chemical, Medco Health, Motorola Solutions, Occidental Petroleum, Pulte Group, Raytheon, Sprint Nextel, Starwood, Thomson Reuters, Time Warner Cable, and Viacom, and after-the-bell from Microsoft, Cliffs Natural Resources, and Motorola Mobility.
FRIDAY: Personal income, personal spending, Chicago PMI, Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment; earnings before-the-bell from Caterpillar, Chevron, Merck, DR Horton, Pitney Bowes, and Weyerhaeuser.

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