May 22, 2007 / 1:15 PM / 12 years ago

US STOCKS-Wall St. set to open higher as casinos gain

(Updates futures, adds Staples, Fremont stock action)

By Jennifer Coogan

NEW YORK, May 22 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures pointed to a higher market open on Tuesday, with gaming and leisure stocks lifted by billionaire Kirk Kerkorian’s offer to purchase two Las Vegas properties owned by MGM Mirage Inc. (MGM.N).

Shares of MGM Mirage jumped 23 percent in electronic trading before the open after Kerkorian’s Tracinda Corp. said on Monday it would explore options for its majority stake in MGM and enter talks to purchase the casino company’s Bellagio Hotel and City Centre properties. For details see [ID:nN21358342].

Other casino stocks rising were Wynn Resorts Ltd. (WYNN.O), up 4.9 percent, and Las Vegas Sands Inc. (LVS.N), up 3.6 percent.

“Once one (company) goes in, the whole group gets in play,” said Anthony Conroy, head trader at BNY Brokerage, a unit of Bank of New York in New York. “People are looking for what’s going to be the next catalyst to take the market higher and expectations are for more private equity deals.”

S&P 500 futures SPc1 were up 1.2 points, 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 DJc1 rose 14 points, and Nasdaq 100 NDc1 futures gained 3.25 points.

The S&P 500 on Monday briefly topped its previous record close set on March 24, 2000 before trimming gains. The benchmark index has yet to break its record intraday high of 1,552.92, a record also set on March 24, 2000.

Several retailers were reporting quarterly earnings before the opening bell. Zale Corp. ZLC.N reported a narrower-than-expected loss and forecast a loss for the current quarter. The mall-based jeweler said retail in general is showing signs of weakness [ID:nWNAS2085].

Warehouse club BJ’s Wholesale Club Inc (BJ.N) reported a decline in profit that met analysts’ estimates [ID:nN22397467].

Investors will get a clue about the state of the economy when the Richmond Federal Reserve Bank releases the May reading of its manufacturing index at 10 a.m. (1400 GMT).

Shares of Fremont General Corp. FMT.N surged more than 60 percent before the bell on Tuesday after iStar Financial Inc. SFI.N said it agreed to buy Fremont’s commercial real estate business for about $1.9 billion. [ID:nN22410698]. The deal helped other lenders rise.

Fremont shares earlier rose as high as $8.50 in electronic trade but later extended their gain to $11.80 from a close of $7.11 on the New York Stock Exchange. Impac Mortgage Holdings Inc. (IMH.N), which late on Monday announced a deal to buy the retail and wholesale lending business of Pinnacle Financial Corp., rose 13 percent. [ID:nN21358547].

Shares of Accredited Home Lenders LEND.O gained 10 percent.

Staples Inc. SPLS.O, the world’s largest office supplies retailer, said quarterly profit rose 12.4 percent, driven by higher sales of laptop computers and continued growth in copy and print service businesses.

Staples stock was down 3.1 percent in pre-market trading.

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