* Cyprus aims to exempt small savers from deposit tax
* U.S. housing starts on tap
* Futures: S&P up 3.7 pts; Dow up 20 pts; Nasdaq off 9 pts
By Angela Moon
NEW YORK, March 19 U.S. stock index futures
edged up on Tuesday, after two days of declines, as investors'
focus shifted away from developments in Cyprus that may lead the
country into default.
"I don't think the situation is Cyprus is going to renew
fears of a euro zone crisis and in the worst case scenario, it
will be limited to certain sectors," said Peter Cardillo, chief
market economist at Rockwell Global Capital in New York.
"It served as a good reason for investors to sell after this
strong rally. Now, the market is shrugging it off."
Cyprus's parliament was set to reject a divisive tax on bank
deposits in a vote scheduled for Tuesday, a government spokesman
said. The government has proposed to spare small savers from the
tax in a bid to win parliamentary backing for an international
bailout and avoid default and a banking collapse.
A weekend announcement that Cyprus would break with previous
practice and impose a levy on bank accounts as part of a 10
billion euro ($13 billion) EU bailout prompted some turmoil on
European financial markets on Monday.
Investors awaited U.S. housing starts and permits data for
February, due at 8:30 a.m. EDT (1230 GMT). Economists surveyed
by Reuters forecast a 915,000 annualized rate in February versus
890,000 in January, and a total of 925,000 permits in February
compared with 904,000 in the prior month.
S&P 500 futures added 3.7 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 20
points and Nasdaq 100 futures gained 9 points.
The market had ended lower on Monday after a plan to tax
bank accounts in Cyprus to help pay for the country's bailout
stoked worries that it could threaten the stability of financial
institutions in the euro zone. On Friday, the Dow ended a 10-day
winning streak as investors booked recent profits.
Citigroup Inc agreed to pay $730 million to settle a
class action lawsuit on behalf of investors who said they were
misled by the company's disclosures. The stock was up 0.3
percent in premarket trade.
Drugmaker Affymax Inc said it was considering
selling itself or filing for bankruptcy among a range of
alternatives, as it struggles to stay afloat following the
recent recall of its sole commercial product, the anemia drug
Omontys. The stock plunged 57.5 percent to $1.23.
BlackRock Inc, the world's largest money manager,
will lay off nearly 300 employees, or about 3 percent of its
workforce, according to an internal memo obtained by Reuters.
Boeing Co technical workers voted by a wide margin to
ratify a new four-year labor agreement with the company, ending
the possibility of a strike that could have cut production at a
critical time for the aircraft maker.