U.S. Stocks To Open Higher; Ahead Of ISM, Housing Data

NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- U.S. stocks are set to move higher at Tuesday's opening, in a rebound from the prior day's losses, as investors set up for monthly U.S. auto sales and new manufacturing sector data to take in.

Procter & Gamble should be in focus after the personal care products maker narrowed its outlook range.

The futures contract for the Dow Jones Industrial Average last was up 11 points at 13,127.

Futures contracts for the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq 100 were 2.30 points higher at 1,490.70 and 2.2 points higher at 1,881.5.

On Monday, U.S. stocks closed lower, after investors consolidated some of the hefty gains posted in April, while weighing at a revealing not only tame inflation but also a weakening economy. The Dow finished with a 58 point loss, the S&P 500 fell 11.7 points and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 32 points.

There is little overnight market news, as most European markets, save London, were closed for May Day celebrations and there was scant data in Japan.

On Tuesday investors will continue to take in earnings reports, while keeping an eye on economic reports ahead of next week's Federal Reserve meeting on interest rates.

Most economists expect the Fed, which has been on hold since last summer, to leave the key overnight unchanged at 5.25%. But there could be switches in stance in the policy communiquC).

"The focus is clearly shifting to the economy as the Fed gets set to meet next week," said Marc Pado, chief U.S. market strategist at Cantor Fitzgerald. "While no one is looking for the Fed to move in either direction, the mix of inflation data and economic weakness is causing some investors to lock in April's profits."

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke is scheduled to speak on trade at trade at a conference in Montana at 11 a.m. Eastern.

The auto sales reports should dribble out throughout the day. The MarketWatch forecast, based on the median of predictions collected from economists, is for a total of 12.1 million cars sold by General Motors , Ford Motor Co. and DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler unit combined.

In addition, the Institute for Supply Management's April survey of the manufacturing sector and the pending home sales index for March are both due at 10 a.m. Eastern.

MarketWatch is forecasting that the ISM headline reading will show an improvement to 51.0% last month from 50.9% in March.

Stocks in Motion

Procter & Gamble shares last were down 1.2% at $63.62, but the stock could post gains later. The company reported a 14% improvement in quarterly profit. It now expects to earn $3.01 to $3.03 a share, up from its prior view of $2.99 to $3.03 a share.

Retailer Circuit City Stores Inc. dropped 8% in pre-opening trade. The company withdrew its fiscal first-half 2008 outlook and said its fourth-quarter loss from continuing operations will widen due to the timing of revenue recognition of Internet-oriented sales.

Citigroup later downgraded the stock to hold, warning that more bad news could be on the way.

Microsoft Corp. , a Dow component, may offer somewhere "in the $1 billion range" for internet advertising firm 24/7 Real Media , according to The New York Post.

Shares of 24/7 Real Media rose 20% to $9.95 a share before the opening. Microsoft was 9 cents higher at #30.03.

Billionaire investor Carl Icahn continued his bid for a seat on Motorola Inc.'s board by sending an open letter to shareholders that is being published as a full-page advertisement, according to a media report Tuesday.

Pfizer Inc. won a Canadian appeals-court ruling. A lower court would have allowed Teva's Canadian unit Novopharm to launch a generic version of Pfizer's Celebrex pain reliever.

Other markets

Treasurys were slightly higher, extending gains seen on Monday when economic reports showed easing inflation pressures and slowing economic activity in the U.S.br>
The benchmark 10-year Treasury note last was up 2/32 at 100-2/32 with a yield of 4.618%.

The dollar was little changed against other currencies, steadying after a sell-off in the previous session. "The dollar may be vulnerable to renewed selling in the event that yesterday's theme of slowing growth and easing inflationary pressures resurfaces in today's reports," said Ashraf Laidi, chief foreign-exchange analyst at CMC Markets in New York.

The euro was last up 0.04% at $1.3655, while the dollar was up 0.06% at 119.48 yen.

Crude-oil futures were slightly lower, one day ahead of weekly data on supplies that's expected to show a modest build in crude stocks, but further declines in gasoline supplies. In addition, Iran agreed Monday to join international talks on security in Iraq.

Gold futures fell Tuesday in thin trading, as lower crude-oil prices failed to lend support to the precious metal.

Gold for June delivery declined $6.10 to $677.40 an ounce on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Crude for June delivery was crude is down 11 cents at $65.60 a barrel in early electronic trade.

By Leslie Wines