(By Balachander) U.S. stock index futures pointed to a higher opening on the Wall Street after the Federal Reserve announced plans to purchase mortgage bonds at a pace of $40 billion per month to spur growth.
Mini Dow Industrial Average futures advanced 33 points to 13,478. The Nasdaq futures gained 8.75 points to 2,829.75. Standard and Poor's 500 futures rose 3.20 points to 1,453.60.
The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), the rate-setting committee of the Federal Reserve, also decided to keep interest rates "exceptionally low" at least through middle of 2015. The policy should put downward pressure on longer-term interest rates, support mortgage markets, and help to make broader financial conditions more accommodative, the FOMC said.
Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke justified the latest action from the central bank, saying new measures were needed to address persistently high levels of unemployment.
If the outlook for the labor market does not improve substantially, the Committee will continue its purchases of agency mortgage-backed securities, undertake additional asset purchases, and employ its other policy tools as appropriate, the FOMC said.
The Fed reduced its 2012 growth projections to 1.7 percent to 2.0 percent from June forecast of 1.9 percent to 2.4 percent, but raised 2013 GDP projections to 2.5 percent to 3.0 percent from 2.2 percent to 2.8 percent.
On Thursday, U.S. stocks ended sharply higher after the Fed policy statement.
On the domestic data front, the Commerce Department reported August retail sales and core retail sales rose 0.9 percent and 0.8 percent, respectively. Economists expected a 0.7 percent and 0.6 percent rise each in retail sales and excluding autos sales.
Another data showed that core consumer price index inched up 0.1 percent in August, while economists expected a gain of 0.2 percent. The headline index gained 0.6 percent, coming in above expectations of a rise of 0.5 percent.
At 9.55 am ET, the Reuters/University of Michigan survey of consumer sentiment may show the index to have edged down to 74.0 for September from 74.3 in the prior month.
Hot Stocks Of The Day: SPLS, WDC, WERN, DFN, GWR, ALOG
In corporate news, Staples Inc. (NASDAQ:SPLS) rose 4.77 percent in premarket. Fortune reported that private-equity firms are considering buying the office products company.
Western Digital (NASDAQ:WDC) reduced its first-quarter revenue guidance, citing muted hard drive demand. WDC also said its board adopted a cash dividend policy and an increased authorization of $1.5 billion under its share buyback plan. Shares rose 2.63 percent in premarket.
Werner Enterprises Inc. (NASDAQ:WERN) plunged 11.28 percent in premarket after the transportation and logistics company guided third-quarter earnings below market expectations.
CareFusion Corp. (NYSE:CFN) announced it has delayed filing its annual report on Form 10-K for the year ended June 30. The medical technology company is consulting with the federal regulators about its accounting policy for sales-type leases in its Pyxis medication and supply dispensing product lines.
Genesee & Wyoming Inc. (NYSE:GWR), which operates short line and regional freight railroads, said it has priced class A common stock offering of 3.5 million shares at $64.75 apiece. Shares inched higher in premarket.
Analogic Corp. (NASDAQ:ALOG) soared 11.66 percent in premarket after the maker of medical imaging systems posted fourth-quarter earnings that more than doubled from last year amid a 12 percent rise in revenue. It forecasts high-single-digit organic revenue growth for 2013.
Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. (NYSE:TEVA) has agreed to sell its U.S. based animal health business to Bayer HealthCare LLC for $145 million as part of its move to focus on its core business assets.
European markets rose sharply, with Germany's DAX up 1.45 percent to trade at 7,416.57. France's CAC40 added 2.07 percent to trade at 3,574.41. U.K.'s FTSE 100 jumped 1.55 percent to trade at 5,910.10.
Asian markets closed sharply higher, with China's Shanghai Stock Exchange Composite Index adding 0.64 percent to finish at 2,123.85. Japan's Nikkei 225 gained 1.83 percent to end at 9,159.39. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index rose 2.90 percent to close at 20,629.78. India's BSE Sensex closed at 18,464.27, up 2.46 percent.
Commodity & Currency Scan:
Ahead of the opening bell, crude oil futures climbed 1.34 percent to $99.63 per barrel. Gold futures slipped 0.11 percent to $1,770.2 per ounce.
In the currency market, the euro rose 0.76 percent against the U.S. dollar to 1.3088 and the British pound advanced 0.27 percent to 1.6199. The dollar added 0.84 percent against the Japanese yen to 78.1300.