Stock Futures Higher as Investors Watch Earnings

NEW YORK (AP) -- Wall Street headed for a higher open Monday as investors cheered signs of thawing in global credit markets even as they poured over a batch of quarterly earnings for clues about whether the U.S. faces a short downturn or a deep, protracted recession.

Shaken by the extreme volatility of trading over the past two weeks, investors were hopeful that improvements in the credit markets signaled that a bottom has been reached and that normalcy will return to edgy financial markets.

In a snapshot of how the real economy is weathering the crisis, companies from sectors including retail, credit cards, defense, energy and technology report third-quarter earnings Monday. Investors are watching the reports for any indication of where the U.S. economy is headed.

Toy maker Mattel Inc. said Monday its fiscal third-quarter profit rose on higher sales of its Fisher-Price and American Girl brands, but results missed Wall Street expectations as expenses rose. Meanwhile, rival Hasbro Inc. reported lower profits for the third quarter but still beat expectations on sales of its Star Wars, Playskool and Nerf toys.

But analysts say the companies' expectations about how they'll perform going forward will be more telling.

Ahead of the market's open, Dow Jones industrial average futures rose 161, or 1.83 percent, to 8,932. On Friday, the Dow ended 127 points lower after another back-and-forth session that has characterized recent trading, the volatility was markedly less.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index futures rose 20.70, or 2.22 percent, to 954.20 and the Nasdaq 100 index futures rose 24.25, or 1.85 percent, to 1,335.25.

Strains in credit markets continued showing signs of easing after a raft of bailout measures by governments around the world, including a joint U.S. and European plan to buy stakes in private banks to boost their lending. Demand for Treasury bills, regarded as the safest assets around, lessened Monday but remained relatively high in a sign that there was still much fear in the markets.

The three-month Treasury bill Monday yielded 0.82 percent, unchanged from late Friday. That's better than the 0.20 percent of last Wednesday, but the yield but has not surpassed 1 percent in more than a week.

Investors were also optimistic about the steady decline in bank-to-bank lending rates, which fell for a sixth straight day Monday. The London interbank offered rate, or Libor, for three-month dollar loans fell 0.36 percent to 4.06 percent, the biggest daily drop since January.

The dollar was lower against other major currencies, while gold prices rose.

In other earnings, Halliburton Co. on Monday reported a third-quarter net loss of $21 million, due largely to the cash settlement of convertible debt. However, the oilfield services provider said operating income topped $1 billion for the first time.

Earnings from American Express Co., Lockheed Martin Corp. and Texas Instruments Inc. are due later in the day.

Investors will also be waiting for comments from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, who is scheduled to appear Monday before the House Budget Committee to give lawmakers an update on the financial crisis. Bernanke is likely to once again put the country on notice that there won't be a quick fix while potentially leaving the door open for further interest rate cuts to provide some relief.

Light, sweet crude was up $1.77 to $73.62 a barrel in premarket electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Last week, it sank to an almost 16-month low on worries about a deep global recession obliterating fuel demand.

Financial markets overseas were higher.

Japan's Nikkei stock average was up 3.59 percent. Britain's FTSE 100 was up 2.09 percent, Germany's DAX index was up 1.95 percent, and France's CAC-40 was up 1.78 percent.

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