* Saks rallies on report it could sell itself
* Bernanke seen hitting dovish note in testimony
* Futures up: Dow 18 pts, S&P 3.4 pts, Nasdaq 7 pts
By Rodrigo Campos
NEW YORK, May 22 U.S. stock index futures rose
in thin trading on Wednesday, ahead of highly anticipated
Congressional testimony by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke
on the economy and monetary policy.
Bernanke is expected to strike a dovish tone when he
addresses a congressional committee at 10:00 a.m. EDT (1400
GMT). Earlier on Wednesday, influential New York Fed President
William Dudley reinforced his own remarks Tuesday, when he
damped speculation that the U.S. central bank was preparing to
reduce its monetary stimulus.
"A break from past statements, of course, will have a big
impact on the market, but I think (Bernanke's speech) will be
more of the same," said Rick Meckler, president of investment
firm LibertyView Capital Management in Jersey City, New Jersey.
The Fed's ultra loose monetary policy is one of the main
forces behind a rally in U.S. equities that has taken the S&P
500 and Dow industrials to record highs this year. Dudley's
remarks Tuesday boosted U.S. stocks in afternoon trading.
"We are at a point in the market where there isn't really
anything more the Fed could do for stocks," said Meckler, adding
that market participants will be looking for clues as to how the
Fed plans to handle the eventual winding down of its stimulus.
S&P 500 futures rose 3.4 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 rose 18
points, and Nasdaq 100 futures added 7 points.
Shares of luxury department store chain Saks Inc
jumped 18.8 percent in premarket trading after the New York
Post, citing a source who had been briefed on the matter,
reported that the company had hired Goldman Sachs to
explore strategic alternatives, including a possible sale.
Lowe's Cos shares fell 3.1 percent in premarket
trading after the second-largest home improvement chain reported
a weaker-than-expected quarterly profit, hurt by
colder-than-usual weather at the start of the spring and strong
competition from larger rival Home Depot.
Target Corp also cited the unseasonably cold weather
as it reported a 0.6 percent decline in first-quarter sales at
U.S. stores open at least a year. Its shares fell 2.3 percent in
Toll Brothers shares rose 2.8 percent in premarket
trading after the largest U.S. luxury homebuilder posted a 46
percent rise in quarterly profit, suggesting the housing
recovery is picking up pace across the industry.