Stock futures up on China data, fiscal cliff a worry


Stock index futures rose on Monday as upbeat economic data from China indicated a slowdown in the country may be easing, though concerns remained about the growth outlook in the United States and Europe.

The S&P 500 fell 2.4 percent last week, the worst week for the index since June, closing below its 200-day moving average for the first time in five months. That level is a measure of the market's long-term trend, and staying below it could portend further losses ahead.

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Those losses were partly propelled by concerns over the fiscal cliff, a combination of government spending cuts and tax increases set to go into effect early next year unless Congress acts to change the law before then. Though most consider it unlikely that no deal will be reached, analysts fear going over the cliff could push the economy back into recession.

"If the cliff were to occur, it would be very devastating for the economy, which is why it is hard to think that last week was much of an over reaction," said Oliver Purshe, president at Gary Goldberg Financial Services in Suffern, New York, adding that the odds of going over were "very low."

Data showed over the weekend that China's export growth climbed to a five-month high above 11 percent, beating expectations and adding to recent data suggesting the country's seven straight quarters of slowing economic growth have ended.

"Any bit of positive news from China will swing things upward here," Pursche said. "There's a little bit of pent-up desire to bounce back today."

Also overseas, the Greek parliament on Sunday approved an austerity budget for next year, a necessary step to unblock a new tranche of credit from the European Union and International Monetary Fund before the government runs out of cash. Still, investors remain concerned about whether the EU and IMF will agree to send the next tranche.

S&P 500 futures rose 5.1 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 36 points and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 9.5 points.

Trading volume may be slight on Monday, with many traders out for the Veteran's Day holiday. While the stock market is open, the bond market isn't.

Apple Inc rose 0.9 percent to $551.90 in premarket trading after the company announced a global patent settlement with HTC Corp <2498.TW>, as well as a 10-year licensing agreement. The settlement ends one of the first major conflagrations of the smartphone patent wars. Apple shares have been under pressure recently, dropping into bear market territory.

Yahoo Inc rose 1.1 percent to $17.45 before the bell after Alibaba Group , of which Yahoo owns 24 percent, reported strong growth in its latest quarter.

Homebuilder D.R. Horton Inc reported fourth-quarter earnings that beat expectations, helped by a jump in orders.

According to Thomson Reuters data through Friday, of the 449 companies in the S&P 500 that have reported earnings, 63.3 percent have topped analysts' expectations - slightly above the 62 percent average since 1994, but below the 67 percent beat rate over the past four quarters. Only 38.2 percent of companies have topped revenue expectations, well below the 62 percent average since 2002.

U.S. stocks rose on Friday, helped by strong consumer sentiment data, but hardly made a dent in the week's losses as investors turned their attention from the presidential election to the coming negotiations over the fiscal cliff.

(Editing by W Simon)