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Stock Futures Rise Ahead of Housing Data


NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Stock futures were pointing to a higher open Wednesday, with the S&P 500 poised to extend a two-month high as investors remained optimistic about a deal on the U.S. "fiscal cliff."

Also helping to lift sentiment was stronger-than-anticipated data on German business confidence, with Germany's Ifo survey indicating that sentiment advanced for the second straight month in December, rising to 102.4 from 101.4.

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were up 36 points, or 36.04 points above fair value, at 13,312. Futures for the S&P 500 were up 3.25 points, or 4.06 points above fair value, at 1444. Futures for the Nasdaq were up 9.75 points, or 11.46 points above fair value, at 2711.

"A stronger euro ... an approaching fiscal deal should continue to fuel the year-end rally which we believe will take the indices higher in these last trading days of the year," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Global Capital.

Major U.S. stock averages soared Tuesday as signs of progress on the "fiscal cliff" talks and improving homebuilder confidence lifted investors' spirits.

House Speaker John Boehner on Tuesday and proposed a so-called "Plan B," which the White House subsequently rejected. Stocks continued to climb despite the political posturing.

At 8:30 a.m. EST, the Census Bureau is expected by economists to report that housing starts fell to a to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 873,000 in November from 894,000 units in October.

Building permits are expected to have risen to a pace of 875,000 in November, from 866,000 in October.

Paul Diggle, an economist at Capital Economics, is penciling in a decline of 1.6% in starts in November to 880,000 annualized after building permits fell by 2.5% in October, partly reflecting negative effects from superstorm Sandy.

However, he noted that at this level starts would still be some 24% higher than a year ago, and 70% higher than their recent floor in February 2011.

Overseas markets showed strength amid hopes that a U.S. budget deal will be reached before Jan. 1 in Washington. The FTSE 100 in London was up 0.63% and the DAX in Germany was higher by 0.23%. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index finished higher by 0.57% and the Japan's Nikkei average settled up 2.39%.

Gold for February delivery was up 70 cents at $1,671.40 an ounce at the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange, while February crude oil contracts were up 36 cents at $88.76 a barrel.

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The benchmark 10-year Treasury was rising 5/32, diluting the yield to 1.806%. The dollar was off 0.28%, according to the U.S. dollar index.

In corporate news, UBS(UBS) , the Swiss bank, admitted to fraud, agreeing Wednesday to pay about $1.5 billion in fines in the Libor rate-rigging scandal.