Stocks headed higher ahead of economic news

Filed under: Daily News |

Stocks are headed for a higher opening today ahead of reports on auto sales, manufacturing and construction spending.

Automotive website Edmunds.com and J.D. Power and Associates predict that auto sales rose 20 percent in February from the same time last year. Financial analysts say car companies are beginning to offer more discounts and incentives to boost sales.

Manufacturers, meanwhile, likely increased production at a slightly faster pace in February than in January, when output rose at the quickest rate since May 2004. Economists forecast that the Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing index rose to 60.9 in February from 60.8 the previous month.

It would be the 19th straight month of manufacturing growth.

Yet economists expect more bad news in housing. Builders likely began work on fewer homes and projects in January, marking the third straight monthly decline in construction spending.

Traders will also be following testimony from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke to a congressional committee for any signs that the Fed may boost interest rates sooner than expected in the wake of rising food and energy costs and concerns about inflation.

Ahead of the opening bell, Dow Jones industrial average futures are up 25, or 0.2 percent, at 12,240.

Standard & Poor’s 500 index futures are up 4, or 0.3 percent, at 1,330. Nasdaq 100 index futures are up 9, or 0.4 percent, at 2,359.

Bond prices are falling, pushing yields higher. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 3.47 percent from 3.42 percent late Monday.

Natural gas driller Range Resources Corp. fell 6 percent in pre-market trading after the company’s fourth-quarter revenue figures came in below analysts’ expectations. Natural gas prices have been in a slump for the past year as a result of an oversupply in the market.

In earnings news, homebuilder Hovnanian Enterprises Inc. releases its results after the market closes. Analysts predict that the company will likely report a loss for the quarter as it continues to face soft demand for its homes.