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U.S. Stock Futures Boosted Higher

By Tomi Kilgore U.S. stock futures added to gains after data showing retail sales increased more than expected. About 55 minutes ahead of the open, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures climbed 66 points, or 0.4%, to 16047. Just prior to the release of the data, Dow futures were up 51 points. S&P 500 index futures advanced nine points, or 0.5%, to 1821 and Nasdaq 100 futures rallied 20 points, or 0.6%, to 3464. Changes in stock futures don't always accurately predict stock moves after the opening bell. Retail sales for March rose 1.1% on the month, the largest gain since September 2012, versus expectations of a 0.8% increase. Excluding auto sales, retail sales grew 0.7%, topping forecasts of a 0.4% rise. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note ticked up to 2.650% from a seven week low of 2.619% late Friday. The early gain in futures followed a sharp selloff last week, in which continued weakness in previously hot biotechnology and new-generation technology stocks put particular pressure on the Nasdaq Composite Index. That selling, in which the Nasdaq Composite suffered the biggest weekly percentage loss last week since June 2012, started spilling over into larger, blue chip stocks. The Dow Industrials ended last week with the biggest two-day decline in over two-months. European markets were broadly lower, as fresh tensions in Ukraine added to the pressures of last week's technology-led selloff. Helping provide an early lift to sentiment, banking giant Citigroup rose 2.6% in premarket trading after reporting first-quarter earnings and revenue that exceeded analyst estimates. Despite the recent weakness, longer-term investors still believe the outlook for stocks is favorable, as the fundamentals that have helped push the market to new highs this year, such as an improving economy, low interest rates and inflation and an accommodative Federal Reserve, will eventually stem the selling. Wayne Kaufman, chief market analyst at New York-based investment firm Rockwell Securities, said that while he remains bullish long-term, and some technical signals suggest a short-term rally can start, he recommends investors hold off on putting new money to work until the market shows it can respond to positive signals. "Unfortunately, just because stocks stop going down doesn't mean they are going up," Mr. Kaufman said. He said the fact that previous leading stocks haven't sustained a bounce despite "oversold" technical readings is a concern. "A market that does not respond to oversold conditions is dangerous," Mr. Kaufman said. "As we've been stressing, this is a short-term trader's market." Crude oil futures slipped 0.1% to $103.66 a barrel, after settling at a seven-week low on Friday, while gold futures gained 0.3% to $1,322.50 an ounce. The dollar gained some ground against the euro and the yen. In Europe, Stoxx Europe 600 declined 0.4%, and was headed for the lowest close in three weeks. Adding to recent investor concerns over valuation, Ukraine mobilized its military over the weekend to counter pro-Russian militants who extended their control across several cities in the east of the country. Germany's DAX 30 index gave up 0.5%, France's CAC 40 fell 0.4% and the U.K.'s FTSE 100 lost 0.4%. "Tensions in Eastern Ukraine are playing a part in containing risk-taking in the new week," said foreign-exchange analysts at BNP Paribas. Separately, comments from European Central Bank President Mario Draghi over the weekend that the strength of the euro could prompt further monetary easing to prevent inflation rate from falling too low had little effect on the currency or equity markets. Asian markets were mostly lower. Japan's Nikkei Stock Average lost 0.4% to a six-month low, after suffering last week the biggest weekly percentage decline since March 2011. China's Shanghai Composite inched up 0.1%. In corporate news, TIAA-CREF is set to announce it is buying Nuveen Investments for $6.25 billion including debt, The Wall Street Journal reported. The acquisition would move TIAA-CREF up to become one of the U.S.'s biggest money managers. WebMD rallied 12% after the online health portal said it expects first-quarter results will be at least at the high end of expectations, helped recent improvement in sales activity. Write to Tomi Kilgore at tomi.kilgore@wsj.com and Tommy Stubbington at tommy.stubbington@wsj.com

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