Stock Futures Point To Further Gains, Buoyed By Fed Plan

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Stock index futures climbed on Friday, indicating a further advance in equities which hit multi-year highs Thursday as investors lauded an aggressive plan by the Federal Reserve to stimulate the economy.

The Federal Reserve launched another stimulus program on Thursday, its third quantitative easing measure, saying it would pump $40 billion into the economy each month until the jobs market showed sustained growth.

"QE3 is the obvious market driver of today and probably will continue for the next day or two," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Global Capital in New York.

"Nonetheless, we do have some economic numbers we will be looking at today - CPI, University of Michigan, Industrial production, retail sales, all of which should continue to show sluggish economic growth."

The announcement pushed the Dow and S&P 500 to their highest levels since December 2007 and the Nasdaq to its highest close since November 2000.

It also pushed the dollar <.dxy> down 0.6 percent, boosting commodities by raising the allure of those priced in a weaker U.S. currency. Freeport-Mcmoran Copper & Gold Inc rose 1.7 percent to $42.50 and Alcoa Inc advanced 2 percent to $9.82 in premarket trade.

Investors will look to a batch of data for clues on the health of the economy. Retail sales for August will be released at 8:30 a.m. EDT(1230 GMT), with economists in a Reuters survey expecting a 0.7 percent rise compared with a 0.8 percent increase in July.

Also set for 8:30 a.m. EDT (1230 GMT) is the August consumer price index. Economists in a Reuters survey expect a 0.5 percent rise compared with an unchanged reading in July. Excluding volatile food and energy items, CPI is seen up 0.2 percent compared with a 0.1 percent increase in the prior month.

S&P 500 futures rose 6 points and were above fair value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the contract. Dow Jones industrial average futures gained 59 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures added climbed 14 points.

At 9:15 a.m. EDT (1315 GMT) the Federal Reserve will release industrial production and capacity utilization data for August. Economists in a Reuters survey expect an unchanged reading in production and 79.2 percent for capacity utilization.

The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers will release the preliminary September consumer sentiment index at 9:55 a.m. EDT (1355 GMT). Economists in a Reuters survey expect a reading of 74.0 compared with 74.3 in the final August report.

At 10:00 a.m. EDT(1400 GMT), the Commerce Department issues Business Inventories for July, with economists in a Reuters survey expecting a rise of 0.3 percent versus a 0.1 percent rise in June.

Western Digital Corp lost 1.7 percent to $41.86 in premarket trading after the world's largest storage-drive maker cut its forecast for the current quarter on muted demand for hard disk drives (HDD).

Staples Inc gained 2.5 percent to $12.26 in premarket trading after Fortune reported several private equity firms, including Bain Capital, were considering a buyout offer for the office retailer.

Home Depot Inc , the world's largest home improvement chain, will close all seven of its big box stores and cut 850 jobs in China as the retailer changes its focus in the Chinese market to online and specialty stores, becoming the latest retailer to feel the chill from China's slowing economy.

European stocks rallied to a 14-month high early and Asian shares climbed, led by growth-oriented stocks like miners, after the launch of a new monetary stimulus program from the Fed. <.>

(Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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Description : The Federal Reserve launched another stimulus program on Thursday, its third quantitative easing measure, saying it would pump $40 billion into the economy each month until the jobs market showed sustained growth.
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