March 26, 2014 / 11:27 AM / in 4 years

US STOCKS-Futures rise as Ukraine tensions ease

* West holds off on more severe sanctions against Russia

* Facebook buys Oculus for $2 bln, shares up in premarket

* U.S. unemployment to fall below 6 pct in 2014 -Bullard

* Futures up: Dow 22 pts, S&P 5 pts, Nasdaq 9.25 pts

By Ryan Vlastelica

NEW YORK, March 26 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures rose on Wednesday as geopolitical tensions eased after Western powers agreed to hold off on more damaging economic sanctions against Russia unless it went beyond its seizure of Crimea.

* Tensions between the United States and Russia have been a major market focus in recent sessions, although the issue has not translated to protracted market losses. Investors have been concerned about the economic fallout of any escalation in the biggest East-West conflict since the Cold War, though few U.S. companies have direct exposure to the region.

* U.S. President Barack Obama said Russian forces would not be removed militarily from Crimea, although the international community still didn’t recognize Russia’s annexation of the region. Moscow said it was keen to maintain contact with G8 partners.

* Shares of Facebook Inc rose 1 percent to $65.51 in premarket trading. The social networking giant said late Tuesday it would buy Oculus VR Inc, a maker of virtual-reality glasses for gaming, for $2 billion. That follows Facebook’s $19 billion deal to buy WhatsApp in February.

* S&P 500 futures rose 5 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 22 points and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 9.25 points.

* James Bullard, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, said the outlook for the U.S. economy was “quite good,” and that he expected the unemployment rate to fall below 6 percent this year.

* In China, a series of weak economic reports have raised expectations of additional monetary stimulus, though analysts noted there was limited scope for this.

* Shares in Europe and Asia rose, boosted by the prospect of more accommodative monetary policies from central banks. European Central Bank governing council member Jens Weidmann said Tuesday the ECB was not ruling out buying loans and other assets from banks to support the euro zone.

* Toyota Motor Corp will buy back up to 1.89 percent of its shares worth up to $3.5 billion in the automaker’s biggest buyback in more than a decade.

* Mobile game maker King Digital Entertainment Plc late Tuesday priced its initial public offering at the mid-point of its expected range, valuing the “Candy Crush Saga” maker at about $7.1 billion despite questions about whether it can replicate the success of its smartphone smash-hit. King priced its IPO at $22.50 a share, and the stock is set to debut on the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday.

* PVH Corp late Tuesday issued an adjusted full-year profit forecast that was above expectations.

* In upcoming data, February durable goods, expected to rise 1 percent, will be released at 8:30 a.m. EST (1230 GMT). The March reading on the U.S. services sector from financial data firm Markit is on tap for release after the market opens. (Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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