Stocks Look to Extend Charge Higher

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Stock-index futures pointed to more gains for Wall Street as traders remained upbeat on the U.S. economy despite signs that rising gasoline prices may cut consumers' spending power.

Today's Markets

As of 8:34 a.m. ET, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures rose 38 points to 13209, S&P 500 futures gained 3.3 points to 1399 and Nasdaq 100 futures climbed 6.8 points to 2719.

The S&P 500, which is a benchmark that is closely watched by market participants because of its diversity, surpassed the 1400 threshold for the first time since before the financial crisis in 2008 on Thursday. The markets have gotten a lift from generally upbeat data on the U.S. economy, coupled with easing fears about the European debt crisis.

The advance has been swift, with the major market averages notching multi-year highs on a regular basis, which has some analysts questioning if a pullback is on the horizon.

"The rally in global stocks and the selloff in [U.S. Treasuries] suggest to some that the markets are feeling that recovery may be finally on its way," Jose Wynne, an analyst at Barclays Capital wrote in a note to clients on Friday. "But a deeper look into global market indicators suggests that, in fact, the market is still going through a relief rally more than chasing a new trend on global growth."

Still, it is clear that traders are feeling more open to risky assets. U.S. Treasuries, seen as one of the world's safest asset classes, have been pummeled as investors have fled in droves to equities and other higher-paying assets. The 10-year yield, which moves in the opposite direction of the price, recently jumped 0.069-percentage points to 2.344%, the fourth-straight daily advance.

On the European front, Dow Jones Newswires reported European Union officials are considering increasing the firepower of the eurozone's rescue fund from 500 billion euros to 700 billion, citing unnamed officials. German Chancellor Angela Merkel had said earlier the cap remains at 500, Reuters reported.

There are three major economic reports on tap for Friday morning.

Inflation at the consumer level increased by 0.4% in February, in line with estimates, with a spike in gas prices accounting for almost 80% of the rise. Excluding the food and energy components, prices were up 0.1%, slightly under the 0.2% expected.

Later, it is anticipated data from the Federal Reserve will show production in the U.S. industrial sector grew at 0.4% in February from the month prior. Two regional manufacturing reports came in ahead of expectations on Thursday.

A preliminary survey from Reuters/University of Michigan may show consumer sentiment rose very slightly in early March, economists said ahead of the 9:55 a.m. ET release. Gasoline prices may have taken a toll here too, as consumers' disposable income often takes a big hit when prices at the pump are on the rise.

The benchmark crude oil contract traded in New York rose 40 cents, or 0.38%, to $105.51 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline gained a penny to $3.30 a gallon.

In metals, gold slid $13.00, or 0.78%, to $1,646 a troy once.

Foreign Markets

European blue chips climbed 0.43%, the English FTSE 100 rose 0.41% to 5965 and the German DAX gained 0.59% to 7187.

In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 ticked higher by 0.06% to 10130 and the Chinese Hang Seng slipped 0.17% to 21218.