US STOCKS-Wall St set for strong open after Bernanke comments

Thu Jul 11, 2013 9:11am EDT

* Costco June sales top expectations

* Initial claims rise more than expected

* Bernanke comments cool stimulus-slowing ideas

* Futures up: Dow 124 pts, S&P 15.8 pts, Nasdaq 26.50 pts

By Chuck Mikolajczak

NEW YORK, July 11 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks were poised for a strong open on Thursday, after comments by U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke indicated the central bank was unlikely to scale back its stimulus measures earlier than expected.

Bernanke, at an economic conference in Cambridge, Massachusetts on Wednesday, said a highly accommodative monetary policy was needed for the foreseeable future, and that the U.S. unemployment rate of 7.6 percent overstated the health of the job market.

"His statement that they will be highly accommodative for the foreseeable future is pretty clear and the market loved it," said Doug Cote, chief market strategist at ING U.S. Investment Management in New York.

"That statement was very clear and that is what the market is reacting to, because he is in charge."

Comments from Bernanke on May 22, which raised the prospect of an earlier-than-expected move by the central bank to scale back its bond buying program, had pushed the S&P 500 as much as 5.8 percent lower by June 24 from its all-time high of 1,687.18.

The Fed chairman's comments sent the dollar lower and boosted commodities such as gold and copper.

U.S.-listed shares of Barrick Gold climbed 4.9 percent to $14.69 while Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold gained 2.8 percent to $28.38 in premarket trade.

S&P 500 futures rose 15.8 points and were well 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 124 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures jumped 26.50 points.

The benchmark S&P 500 has risen 2.4 percent over the past five sessions, its longest winning streak since early March, on optimism over improving economic data and anticipation of a better-than-expected earnings season.

Economic data showed initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased by 16,000 to a seasonally adjusted 360,000, above expectations calling for 240,000 new filings.

Export prices fell by 0.1 percent, matching the expectation in a Reuters poll, while import prices slipped 0.2 percent last month versus expectations calling for unchanged import prices, signaling global economic growth may be cooling.

Retail stocks will garner attention as they post monthly sales results. Costco Wholesale Corp reported June same-store sales that beat analysts' estimates, helped by higher fuel prices.

Analysts expect S&P 500 companies' second-quarter earnings to have grown 2.6 percent from a year ago, with revenue up 1.5 percent, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Advanced Micro Devices Inc jumped 5.8 percent to $4.21 before the opening bell, after Bank of America Merrill Lynch upgraded it to "buy" from "underperform."

Rockwell Medical Inc surged 27.4 percent to $4.79 in premarket after the company said a late-stage trial of its experimental iron deficiency drug met the main goal of improving hemoglobin levels in patients with chronic kidney disease.

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