U.S. stock index futures signal higher open

LONDON, April 3 Wed Apr 3, 2013 4:29am EDT

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LONDON, April 3 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures pointed to a higher open on Wall Street on Wednesday, with futures for the S&P 500 up 0.2 percent, while Dow Jones futures and Nasdaq 100 futures were up 0.1 percent at 0813 GMT.

* One of the Federal Reserve's most hawkish officials confronted one of the institution's most dovish policymakers on Tuesday in a rare joint public debate over the risks posed to inflation by the U.S. central bank's bold steps to spur growth. The Fed's monetary easing has helped supported asset prices over the last year.

* At least three of the world's top drugmakers - Pfizer Inc , Novartis AG and Abbott Laboratories - are bidding for Brazil's Ache Laboratorios Farmaceuticos in an auction that may value the group at more than $5 billion, people familiar with the matter said.

* Verizon said it does not "currently have any intention" to merge with or buy its partner Vodafone, either alone or in conjunction with others, in response to press reports. However, the telephone company said on Tuesday that it would still be a willing buyer of Vodafone's 45 percent share of their Verizon Wireless U.S. venture, in line with public statements Verizon has made many times over the years.

* The denial of takeover speculation on Vodafone helped to lead British and European shares lower in early trade. European shares are down 0.1 percent.

* J.C. Penney Co Inc Chief Executive Ron Johnson received total compensation of $1.9 million in 2012, according to a regulatory filing on Tuesday, a sharp decline after a year that saw the department store chain's sales fall perilously.

* Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc is emerging as the lead contender in an auction for Life Technologies Corp , a genetic testing maker with a market value of more than $11 billion, three people familiar with the matter said this week.

* Tesla Motors Inc said on Tuesday evening that it was partnering with Wells Fargo & Co and U.S. Bank on a financing product that it says will make its pricey electric sedan accessible to more people.

* On the data front, the ADP March employment report could give some clue as to how the U.S. jobs market fared as deep government spending cuts kicked in. The Institute for Supply Management also releases its March non-manufacturing index.

* ConAgra Foods and Monsanto report earnings on Wednesday.

* U.S. stocks gained on Tuesday, as shares of health insurance companies, including Humana Inc, UnitedHealth Group Inc and Cigna Corp, soared after U.S. federal officials scrapped proposed payment cuts to carriers that run Medicare plans amid pressure from senior citizens and lawmakers.

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