US STOCKS-Futures little changed; Fed speakers in focus

Mon Dec 9, 2013 8:28am EST

* Fed speakers including Lacker and Bullard

* Slower China inflation reduces worries of tighter policy

* McDonald's November restaurant sales miss estimates

* Futures: S&P up 1.9 pts; Dow up 7 pts; Nasdaq up 5.25 pts

By Angela Moon

NEW YORK, Dec 9 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks were little changed on Monday as investors waited for a number of top Federal Reserve officials to speak throughout the day for hints on the future of the central bank's stimulus.

Futures were gaining some support from data that showed China's annual consumer inflation unexpectedly slowed in November, easing market fears of any imminent policy tightening as authorities meet this week to outline their policy and reform priorities for 2014.

But gains were likely to be capped as the S&P 500 scored its best day in nearly a month on Friday following a robust jobs report that gave traders confidence the economic recovery was gaining strength. All 10 S&P sector indexes ended solidly higher in the broad rally.

The S&P 500 is up nearly 27 percent for the year and is on track for its biggest annual gain since 1998. But despite the strong rally, analysts say there is more room to the upside.

"There has been a sharp and consistent increase in equity exchange-traded fund activity since mid-August. In fact, over 60 percent of year-to-date net inflows have occurred in the past three months," said Jonathan Golub, chief U.S. market strategist at RBC Capital Markets in New York.

"We view this as a sign of confidence in the markets among professional investors and traders."

Investors are closely eyeing speeches from Fed speakers, looking for clues on whether the strong jobs report on Friday could be a deciding factor for the Fed to start trimming its stimulus when its Federal Open Market Committee holds its next meeting on Dec. 17-18.

Richmond Fed President Jeffrey Lacker will speak at an economic outlook conference in Charlotte, North Carolina at 12:30 a.m. ET (1730 GMT).

Later, St. Louis Fed President James Bullard will deliver a speech on the economy in St. Louis, and Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher speaks in Chicago.

S&P 500 futures rose 1.9 points and were slightly 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 7 points and Nasdaq 100 futures added 5.25 points.

McDonald's Corp reported weaker-than-expected global sales at established restaurants for November, hurt by a sharp drop in comparable-store sales in the United States. The stock was little changed in premarket trade.

Friday's non-farm payrolls report showed that 203,000 jobs were created in the U.S. in November, many more than expected. The jobless rate fell to a five-year low, and other data showed consumer confidence hit a five-month high.

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