US STOCKS - Futures gain after weekly drop; retail sales eyed

Mon Apr 16, 2012 8:00am EDT

* Retail sales, Empire State manufacturing on tap

* Futures up: Dow 43 pts, S&P 2.8 pts, Nasdaq 7.5 pts

By Chuck Mikolajczak

NEW YORK, April 16 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures advanced o n Monday ahead of retail sales data, indicating the S&P 500 may climb after suffering its worst weekly decline of the year.

The benchmark index fell 2 percent last week and lost 2.7 percent over the past two weeks, its worst two-week slide since November, on increasing concerns about the euro-zone debt crisis and weaker-than-expected U.S. economic data.

The Commerce Department releases March retail sales at 8:30 a.m. (1230 GMT). Economists expect a 0.3 percent rise in sales, compared with a 1.1 percent increase in February. Excluding automobiles, sales are expected to have risen 0.6 percent versus a 0.9 percent increase in February.

"The longer-term integrity of the market remains bullishly intact. However, additional behavior as we have seen could compromise that," said Andre Bakhos, director of market analytics at Lek Securities in New York.

"The market will key on economic releases such as today's retail sales to gauge the strength of the consumer. Good numbers will certainly assuage recent concerns after the weak employment numbers."

Also at 8:30 a.m. (1230 GMT), the New York Federal Reserve releases its Empire State Manufacturing Survey for April. Economists expect a reading of 18.00, compared with 20.21 in March.

Citigroup INC will be in focus. Wall Street expects the bank will earn about $1 per share, unchanged from the year-ago period. Citi shares were up 1.4 percent to $33.88 in premarket ahead of the results.

Earnings season will pick up steam this week, with 86 S&P 500 companies scheduled to report results. According to Thomson Reuters data, of the 32 companies in the S&P 500 that have reported results to date for the first quarter of 2012, 75 percent have reported earnings above analyst expectations.

The Commerce Dept. issues business inventories data for February at 10:00 a.m. (1400 GMT). The market expects a 0.6 percent rise, versus a 0.7 percent increase in January.

S&P 500 futures rose 2.8 points and were above fair value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the contract. Dow Jones industrial average futures gained 43 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures climbed 7.5 points.

Mattel Inc, the world's largest toy company, said first-quarter net income fell to $7.8 million, or 2 cents per share, from $16.6 million, or 5 cents per share, a year earlier. Mattel shares were down 5.5 percent to $32.24 in pre-market trading.

Jury selection in a high-stakes dispute over smartphone technology between Oracle Corp and Google Inc is set to begin on Monday morning, kicking off a trial in which both companies' chief executives are set to take the stand.

Russian state oil firm Rosneft and U.S. Exxon Mobil Corp will sign a wide-ranging strategic partnership later on Monday at Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's residence, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

European shares advanced, with a strong start to the U.S. earnings season helping them rebound after recent falls even as investors remained cautious about the outlook for Spain ahead of a bond auction this week.

Asian shares and the euro fell on Monday as a surge in Spanish government bond yields renewed concerns about Europe's sovereign debt crisis and undermined investor appetite for riskier assets.