- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 17, 2009

NEW YORK (AP) - Wall Street was poised to open modestly higher Tuesday after better-than-expected reports on the housing market and inflation.

The market is looking to restart a rally that fizzled Monday afternoon, ending a string of four consecutive gains.

The Commerce Department said new home construction rose unexpectedly to an annual rate of 583,000 in February from a revised 477,000 in January. Economists expected construction to drop to a pace of around 450,000 units, according to Thomson Reuters.

Building permit applications, a key measure of future activity, also rose. Applications increased 3 percent to an annual rate of 547,000. Economists were expecting permit applications to fall to a rate of 500,000.

Separately, the Labor Department said wholesale prices rose 0.1 percent in February. Economists predicted the producer price index would rise 0.4 percent during the month. The PPI rose 0.8 percent in January.

The government said core inflation, which excludes energy and food, edged up 0.2 percent in February after rising 0.4 percent in January.

After the reports, stock index futures improved, indicating a modestly higher opening. Dow futures rose 10, or 0.14 percent, 7,246. S&P; 500 futures gained 0.7, or 0.09 percent, to 754.70, while Nasdaq 100 index futures rose 2.50, or 0.22 percent, to 1,154.75.

The market snapped a streak of four straight increases on Monday as a rally waned in the afternoon. The Dow and S&P; 500 both gained around 10 percent last week.

Investors are also likely to keep an eye on aluminum maker Alcoa Inc., which lowered its dividend on Monday after the market closed. Alcoa cut the dividend 82 percent to 3 cents and said it plans to sell stock and debt to help reduce annual costs by more than $2.4 billion.

Meanwhile, bond prices were mixed. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves opposite its price, fell to 2.95 percent from 2.96 percent late Monday. The yield on the three-month T-bill, considered one of the safest investments, rose to 0.24 percent from 0.23 percent late Monday.

The dollar mostly rose against other major currencies, while gold prices fell.

Oil prices fell 55 cents to $46.80 per barrel in premarket trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Overseas, Japan’s Nikkei stock jumped 3.2 percent. In afternoon trading, Britain’s FTSE 100 fell 1.2 percent, Germany’s DAX index declined 1.5 percent, and France’s CAC-40 fell 1.1 percent.

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On the Net:

New York Stock Exchange: http://www.nyse.com

Nasdaq Stock Market: http://www.nasdaq.com

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