US STOCKS-Futures point to higher open on bargain-hunting
* J.C. Penney up after investor William Ackman resigns from board
* Retail sales rise 0.2 percent in July below forecasts
* Digital Generation soars, to sell television business
* Futures up: Dow 23 pts, S&P 2.1 pts, Nasdaq 2.75 pts
NEW YORK, Aug 13 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures pointed to a modestly higher open on Tuesday, indicating a rebound as investors sought bargains after an extended period of weakness.
The latest economic data showed U.S. July retail sales rose 0.2 percent, slightly below expectations for a 0.3 percent rise. But a gauge of consumer spending - retail sales excluding cars, gasoline and building materials - rose at its fastest pace in seven months.
Futures trimmed gains after the data.
July import and export prices also came in slightly under consensus expectations.
"The data supports the idea that the economy is improving, though growth is still less than we'd like to see," said James Dunigan, chief investment officer at PNC Wealth Management in Philadelphia.
The S&P 500 has fallen for five of the past six sessions, and last week posted its worst week since June. Those declines came as investors found few reasons to buy with major indexes near record highs and earnings season winding down.
Wall Street has struggled for direction in the past month. Since July 11, the S&P 500 has traded in a narrow range, with its peak barely 2 percent higher than its trough.
Recent economic data has also been mixed, raising questions about the Federal Reserve's monetary stimulus program, which the central bank said it could begin to ease next month if economic growth meets its targets. The policy has been credited with fueling the S&P's gain of nearly 19 percent so far this year.
But based on Monday's close, the S&P 500 is 1.2 percent below its all-time high, reached earlier this month.
"The general tone in markets is positive, but things are feeling a bit heavy," said Dunigan, who helps oversee $118 billion. "I think the next 5 percent move in markets will be down, while the next 10 percent move after that will be up."
S&P 500 futures rose 2.1 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 23 points and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 2.75 points.
European shares rose for a fourth straight day, approaching the highs of the year, on evidence that Europe's economy is finally picking up steam. Shares in China were modestly higher.
J.C. Penney Co rose 1.4 percent to $13.35 in premarket trading after the retailer said major investor William Ackman has resigned from the company's board. Ackman, who runs the hedge fund Pershing Square, has been pushing Penney to oust its chairman and chief executive.
"If you're an aggressive investor, this could be viewed as a catalyst to get in J.C. Penney," said Oliver Pursche, president of Gary Goldberg Financial Services in Suffern, New York. "We've been considering it as a valuation and turnaround play."
Eli Lilly and Co rose 4.7 percent to $56.07 before the bell after it said its experimental lung cancer drug increased survival in a late-stage trial.
Digital Generation Inc soared 37 percent to $14.17 in premarket trading a day after it agreed to sell its television business for $485 million.
Yum Brands Inc fell 3.3 percent to $72 in premarket trading a day after the fast food chain operator said July China sales slid 13 percent.
With 90 percent of the S&P 500 having reported, 68 percent of companies have topped earnings expectations, while 24 percent have missed. JDS Uniphase Corp is the only S&P 500 company scheduled to report quarterly results on Tuesday.
The Dow and the S&P 500 dipped on Monday, extending recent losses, but gains in Apple Inc and BlackBerry kept the Nasdaq slightly higher.
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