Bonds News

U.S. stock futures signal gains; retail data eyed

* U.S. stock index futures pointed to a higher open on Wall Street on Thursday, with futures for the S&P 500 SPc1 up 0.5 percent, Dow Jones DJc1 futures up 0.5 percent and Nasdaq 100 NDc1 futures up 0.4 percent at 0837 GMT.

* Moody's Investors Service cut its credit ratings on Berkshire Hathaway Inc BRKa.NBRKb.N from "Aaa", the top rating, saying the recession and investment losses at insurance operations of investor Warren Buffett's holding company reduced its ability to support funding needs.

* Standard & Poor’s on Wednesday cut its ratings on major U.S. mortgage insurers, after increasing its estimate for losses the companies are expected to take from mortgage loans.

* Investors were bracing for monthly retail sales data from the ICSC, seeking clues on the outlook for consumer spending, as well formonthly trade balance data and weekly jobless claims.

* The Japanese government should spend a bigger-than-expected 15.4 trillion yen ($154 billion) on economic stimulus, the country’s ruling party said, boosting stocks in sectors seen benefiting from the higher spending. The stimulus plan, which aims to tackle Japan’s deepest recession since World War Two, represents 3.1 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).

* European stocks were flat in morning trade, but banks and insurers such as Barclays BARC.L and Deutsche Bank DBKGn.DE gained ground, while Japan's Nikkei average .N225 rose 3.7 percent to end at a three-month closing high.

* The banking sector was in focus in Europe. The German government offered to take over stricken bank Hypo Real Estate HRXG.DE, the country's highest profile casualty of the financial crisis, while Dutch financial services group ING Group ING.AS said it planned to divest operations worth up to 8 billion euros ($10.6 billion) to reduce risk and will focus its banking activities on Europe.

* Morgan Stanley's MS.N bottom line will be hurt by the recent rebound in its bond prices, the Wall Street Journal said.

* Three bidders remain for General Motors Corp's GM.N Hummer brand, two sources with knowledge of the matter said on Wednesday, adding that current offers range from $100 million to $200 million in cash, in addition to other commitments.

* U.S. Bancorp USB.N unit U.S. Bank will buy the corporate trust bond administration business of AmeriServ Financial ASRV.O, the financial firms said on Wednesday.

* U.S. shares ended a two-session drop on Wednesday on news Washington is shoring up life insurers and optimism about consumer spending after Bed Bath & Beyond Inc BBBY.O reported forecast-beating results.

* The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI added 47.55 points, or 0.61 percent, to 7,837.11. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index .SPX gained 9.61 points, or 1.18 percent, to 825.16. The Nasdaq Composite Index .IXIC shot up 29.05 points, or 1.86 percent, to 1,590.66. (Reporting by Blaise Robinson; editing by Karen Foster)