Stock Futures Climb; Cisco Shares Soar


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U.S. stock-index futures climbed on Wednesday as traders braced for a busy day filled with several economic reports and events in Washington. Meanwhile, shares of networking giant Cisco rallied on the back of a strong earnings report.

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Today's Markets

As of 8:35 a.m. ET, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures climbed 32 points to 12750, S&P 500 futures rose 4.8 points to 1376 and Nasdaq 100 futures gained 12.5 points to 2573.

Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO) shares zoomed close to 9% higher in pre-market action after the company reported fiscal first quarter profits and revenues that beat Wall Street's expectations. The strength in the tech sector comes as a change of direction from Tuesday when a selloff in Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) shares weighed heavily.

The economic docket is quite full on the day, with three economic reports and Federal Reserve minutes on tap.

The last Fed policy-setting meeting was the first since the central bank revealed its third quantitative easing program dubbed QE3. Market participants said they would be looking for clues in the minutes on whether the Fed will change the way it communicates monetary policy.

Right now, the central bank has said that it will keep interest rates at historic lows until mid-2015. However, there have been calls among Fed insiders to set monetary policy to certain publicly-defined inflation and unemployment targets. Indeed, Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Janet Yellen made the case for such changes at a speech on Tuesday.

The Commerce Department said U.S. retail sales fell 0.3% in October from September, more than the 0.2% decline expected, and the first drop since June. Excluding the auto segment, sales were unchanged from September. Economists were expecting a 0.2% gain. Hurricane Sandy had a negative and positive impact on sales, according to the Commerce Department.

A separate report at the same time from the Labor Department showed producer prices fell 0.2% in October from September, surprising economists who were expecting a 0.2% gain. Excluding the food and energy components, prices were down 0.2%, the biggest drop since October 2010. Economists were expecting a 0.1% gain.

Lastly, business inventories, which are a gauge of expected demand, are expected to have climbed 0.5% in September from August.

Market participants will also been watching Washington, where President Obama is set to hold his first news conference since being elected for a second term. With the fiscal cliff looming just weeks away, Wall Street has been paying especially close attention to events in the White House and on Capitol Hill.

In other corporate news, traders will be paying close attention to Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) where a lockup on 777 million shares occurs on the day. In the past, the stock has fallen sharply when lockup periods have ended as employees have cashed out on positions.

On the commodities front, energy prices were broadly in the green. The benchmark oil contract rose10 cents, or 0.12%, to $85.47 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline gained 0.22% to $2.66 a gallon. Gold slipped $2.40, or 0.14%, to $1,722 a troy ounce.

Foreign Markets

The Euro Stoxx 50 dipped 0.46% to 2482, the English FTSE 100 slipped 0.6% to 5751 and the German DAX slumped 0.44% to 7137.

In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 ticked up by 0.04% to 8665 and the Chinese Hang Seng rallied 1.2% to 21442.