By Chuck Mikolajczak
NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. stocks were poised to open higher on Thursday, following a ceasefire agreement between Russia and Ukraine and surprising stimulus measures by Sweden’s central bank, although soft economic data may keep gains in check.
Leaders of Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine agreed a deal to end fighting in eastern Ukraine, potentially removing a concern for investors, although the pact remained fragile.
Also helping to lift futures was a decision by Sweden’s Riksbank to introduce negative interest rates and launch bond purchases, while saying it could take further steps to fight falling prices.
Talks over Greek debt with euro zone finance ministers failed to yield an agreement, with negotiations set to continue on Monday.
But futures trimmed gains after data showed U.S. initial jobless claims rose more than expected in the latest week, while retail sales barely rebounded in January.
“You have all these sort of overseas positives and two domestic negatives with the claims data and the retail sales data missing,” said Phil Orlando, chief equity market strategist at Federated Investors in New York.
“So we are still stuck in this trading range with a lot of volatility and nervousness.”
S&P 500 e-mini futures <ESc1> were up 7 points and fair value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the contract, indicated a higher open. Dow Jones industrial average e-mini futures <1YMc1> rose 67 points and Nasdaq 100 e-mini futures <NQc1> added 22 points.
Stocks may get a boost from Cisco Systems <CSCO.O>, which jumped 7.8 percent to $ 29.02 before the opening bell after the network equipment maker reported stronger-than-expected quarterly revenue and profit.
Tesla Motors <TSLA.O> dropped 8 percent to $ 195.75 in premarket after the electric-car maker missed fourth-quarter sales targets and analysts’ profit expectations.
Orbitz Worldwide <OWW.N> shares surged 21.4 percent to $ 11.68 in premarket after the online travel agency agreed to be acquired by Rival Expedia <EXPE.O> for about $ 1.33 billion, or $ 12 per share. Shares of Expedia were up 10.5 percent at $ 86.40 before the opening bell.
American Express <AXP.N> shares dropped 5.7 percent to $ 81.07 in premarket after it said Costco Wholesale Corp <COST.O> would stop accepting its cards in the United States from next April, after the companies failed to reach terms on the renewal of an agreement.
December business inventories data is expected later in the session at 10:00 a.m., with expectations for a rise of 0.2 percent.
Thomson Reuters data showed that 72.4 percent of the 352 S&P 500 components that have reported earnings beat expectations, above the 69 percent in the past four quarters. The earnings growth rate for the quarter stands at 6.7 percent.
(Editing by Bernadette Baum)
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