U.S. stock futures signal gains; housing data eyed

U.S. stock index futures pointed to a higher open on Wall Street on Tuesday, with futures for the S&P 500 SPc1 up 0.21 percent, Dow Jones DJc1 futures up 0.21 percent and Nasdaq 100 NDc1 futures up 0.15 percent.

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* Time Warner Inc (TWX.N), Lions Gate Entertainment Corp (LGF.N) and billionaire Len Blavatnik’s Access Industries put up rival bids of $1.2 billion to $1.5 billion for studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters late on Monday.

* Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T) has lifted its global production plans by 1 percent to 7.57 million vehicles for 2010, anticipating better demand in Japan and other Asian markets, a source at a group company said on Tuesday.

* Google (GOOG.O) has not violated the rights of luxury goods maker Louis Vuitton and two other firms by allowing online advertisers to buy search keywords identical to trademarks, Europe’s top court said. [Read the full article]

NEW YORK (TheStreet) — Health care reform is a political reality — so does health care again make sense as an investment story?

The conventional wisdom dictates that with the uncertainty related to reform finally removed, it’s time for health care investors to come off the sidelines.

Hospital stocks, Medicaid coverage and prescription benefit providers, and even pharmaceutical stocks rallied on Monday. The rally was greatest in the hospital sector and with stocks linked to Medicaid coverage.

Big pharma long ago cut its deal in Washington D.C. to minimize negative repercussions from the health-reform effort, yet big pharma stocks were also up modestly on Monday. And the fact that big pharma cut its deal with Washington D.C. way back when is part of the problem, actually.

Timing is everything in investing. [Read the full article]

Wall Street was set for a flat open on Tuesday as investors awaited data on the housing market, which remains one of the weakest segments of the economy.

Existing home sales for February will be released at 10:00 a.m. EDT (1400 GMT). Sales are expected to slip to 5 million in February from 5.05 million the month before, according to Reuters data. Other data includes the FHFA House Price Index for January, also at 10:00 a.m. See [ECI/US]

“Existing home sales should bring some clarity to the economic picture. A positive number will add confidence the economy is on the right track and that the recession has been contained,” said Andre Bakhos, president of Princeton Financial Group in North Brunswick, New Jersey.

Investors are eyeing a European Union summit later in the week that will tackle Greece’s fiscal problems. [Read the full article]

A sign for a Walgreens store is seen in Belle Glade, Florida January 6, 2010. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Walgreen Co (WAG – News) posted quarterly earnings that fell short of Wall Street forecasts but better management of seasonal merchandise helped the largest U.S. drugstore chain improve margins and sent shares higher.

Walgreen’s prescription and general merchandise sales were both pressured by the mild winter flu season, and consumers continued to hold off buying discretionary items.

“As much as the early flu season helped our first quarter results, it hurt our second quarter results,” Chief Executive Greg Wasson said in a statement.

Profit rose to $669 million, or 68 cents per share, in the second quarter ended on February 28 from $640 million, or 65 cents per share, a year earlier. The latest quarter included 2 cents per share in restructuring and other costs. [Read the full article]

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