US STOCKS-Futures edge higher, S&P 500 near record

Wed Feb 26, 2014 7:07am EST

* S&P 500 has been unable to close at a record this week

* Lowe's Cos rallies in premarket after results

* Jan new home sales data on tap, seen falling slightly

* Futures up: Dow 34 pts, S&P 4.7 pts, Nasdaq 4.25 pts

By Ryan Vlastelica

NEW YORK, Feb 26 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures edged higher on Wednesday, indicating the S&P 500 would again make a run at record levels that have been serving as resistance.

* The benchmark index hit an all-time intraday high on Monday, before shares lost ground and the S&P was unable to end at a record close. On Tuesday, indexes fluctuated between gains and losses throughout the day, ultimately ending lower after the S&P failed to break above Monday's record.

* The index is currently 0.7 percent below its all-time high, and advancing solidly beyond that may be difficult, given a dearth of positive catalysts. Recent economic data has come in below forecasts, and while many blame that on the impact of a harsh winter rather than worsening fundamentals, investors are looking for evidence the market's valuation is justified.

* The CBOE Volatility index, a measure of investor anxiety, has dropped for four straight sessions, dropping 11.8 percent over that period to extremely low levels.

* Lowe's Cos Inc rose 7.9 percent to $51.90 in premarket trading after the home improvement retailer reported earnings and sales growth and said its board had authorized an additional stock buyback program of $5 billion. The results come a day after peer Home Depot also posted strong earnings.

* S&P 500 futures rose 4.7 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 34 points and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 4.25 points.

* Market moves may be slight until Thursday, when Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen is due to speak to the Senate Banking Committee in a semiannual testimony about monetary policy. Her comments will be scoured for insight into how bad weather has affected economic activity, and for confirmation that the Fed will not change its schedule for trimming stimulus.

* Investors are looking ahead to the January reading on new home sales, due at 10:00 a.m. EST (1500 GMT), which is seen dipping slightly from the prior month.

* First Solar Inc shares fell 14 percent to $50.01 in premarket trading a day after the solar panel maker reported that its fourth-quarter net income fell 58 percent.

* Anika Therapeutics Inc soared in after-hours trading on Tuesday after the Food and Drug Administration approved its drug to treat pain and improve joint mobility in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee, more than four years after it first filed for approval.

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