November 29, 2004

Stocks to Open Higher After Holiday Lull

NEW YORK - U.S. stock futures were climbing early Monday as investors return to the market after the Thanksgiving lull with generally high hopes for strong retail sales in the holiday season.

Dow Jones futures climbed 70 points recently, while Nasdaq futures were up 14.5 points and S&P futures rose 8.10 points.

In London, the FTSE 100 rose 0.8 percent to 4779.8 following better-than-expected November consumer confidence figures for the U.K. "which is slightly surprising given the weakness of housing market," said Investec's Philip Shaw.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 Index ended up 1.3 percent at 10977.89 amid a recovery in U.S. dollar verses the yen.

In U.S. corporate news, retail tracking firm ShopperTrak of Chicago estimated retail sales for Friday, the highly touted holiday sales kickoff following Thanksgiving, rose 10.8 percent over last year to hit $8 billion. But retail giant Wal-Mart Stores Inc. slashed its prediction for November sales growth, citing disappointing holiday sales at its stores. Wal-Mart predicted that November same-store sales in the U.S. would grow by only 0.7 percent over a year ago, far less than the 2 percent to 4 percent rise the retailer had expected. J.C. Penney Co. and Sears Roebuck & Co. also remained cautious about overall holiday sales, despite dazzling customer turnout.

International Business Machines Corp. unveiled a chip that is expected to give microprocessor king Intel Corp. strong competition in the living rooms of the future. IBM has been working with Japanese electronics giants Sony and Toshiba for four years on a chip design, code-named "Cell." The three companies said the chip will go into limited production next year and will be used in several consumer-product applications starting in 2006.

On Friday, Electronic Data Systems Corp.'s shares were active in the late trading session after EDS beat out Accenture Ltd. for a $485 million outsourcing pact with a Canadian province.

Analysts are looking for Semtech Corp. to report a third-quarter profit of 19 cents a share after market close Monday, while pegging Donaldson Co. at a fiscal first-quarter profit of 33 cents a share.

No economic data is expected on Monday.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average advanced 1.92 points, or 0.02 percent, to 10522.23, and for the abbreviated holiday week rose 65.32, or 0.6 percent. The Nasdaq Composite Index shed 0.57, or 0.03 percent, to 2101.97, but gained 31.34, or 1.5 percent, for the week. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index added 0.89, or 0.08 percent, to 1182.65 and rose 12.31, or 1.1 percent, for the week.