US STOCKS-Futures point to higher open, Citigroup gains

Mon Oct 15, 2012 9:01am EDT

* Banks to be in focus as Citigroup reports results

* S&P coming off worst week since June on bearish earnings

* Futures bolstered by hopes of Spain asking for aid

* Futures up: Dow 46 pts, S&P 6.7 pts, Nasdaq 17 pts

By Ryan Vlastelica

NEW YORK, Oct 15 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures pointed to a higher open on Monday as Citigroup climbed following its earnings results and strong retail sales data further lifted sentiment.

Growing hopes that Spain would soon request a bailout also lifted sentiment, indicating a rebound from last week, which was the S&P's worst since June. Spain officially asking for aid is seen as a necessary step for dealing with the region's debt crisis.

Citigroup Inc rose 2.4 percent to $35.59 in premarket trading after posting adjusted earnings that surged from the prior year and beat expectations. The growth came as mortgage lending increased and capital markets results rebounded.

September retail sales rose 1.1 percent, above the 0.8 percent growth that had been anticipated. The news offset a read on New York state manufacturing, which came in below forecasts.

"This paints a very good picture for the holiday season," said Todd Schoenberger, managing principal at the BlackBay Group in New York, adding what while the manufacturing number was disappointing, "consumers are such an important part of the economy that everyone will be focusing on retail sales" in Monday trading.

S&P 500 futures rose 7.1 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 added 60 points and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 19 points.

The S&P 500 closed right above its 50-day moving average of 1,428.38 on Friday, and that level may continue to serve as support.

Profits of S&P 500 companies are seen dropping 3 percent this quarter from a year ago, according to Thomson Reuters data. That would represent the first decline in three years and reflects the impact of China's slowing growth and Europe's debt crisis.

With only 6 percent of S&P companies having reported, 59 percent of companies have topped profit expectations - less than the average beat rate of 67 percent for the past four quarters, according to Thomson Reuters data. Half of companies have beaten on revenue, while a quarter missed profit forecasts.

Bank results have been in focus after JPMorgan Chase & Co and Wells Fargo & Co sparked concern about shrinking profit margins for big lenders.

Spain could ask for financial aid from the euro zone next month, euro zone officials said, and if it does, the request would likely be dealt with alongside a revised loan program for Greece and a bailout for Cyprus in one big package. Spain's requesting help is viewed as a critical step for resolving the region's debt crisis.

"When Spain does request help, that will take another risk out of the market and give some positive pull," said Robert Pavlik, chief market strategist at Banyan Partners LLC in New York.

Sprint-Nextel Corp rose 2.8 percent to $5.89 in premarket trading after Japanese mobile operator Softbank Corp said it would buy up to 70 percent of the company for $20.1 billion. Reports on the deal based on sources led to steep gains in Sprint and its biggest-ever volume on Thursday.

U.S shares fell on Friday, with the S&P down for its fifth of the past six sessions, pressured by bank results.

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