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U.S. Stock-Index Futures Advance Before Speech by Fed’s Bernanke

Jan. 3 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. stock futures rose, after the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index started the year lower for the first time since 2008, as investors waited on a speech from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke for clues on the econonmy’s strength.

FireEye Inc. soared 21 percent after acquiring Mandiant Corp. in a $1.05 billion deal that consolidates providers of services that protect computer networks against hackers and spies. Sprint Corp. fell 1.8 percent after Stifel Nicolaus & Co. downgraded the mobile-phone operator to sell from hold.

Futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index expiring in March gained 0.3 percent to 1,831.50 at 8:22 a.m. in New York. Dow Jones Industrial Average contracts advanced 38 points, or 0.2 percent, to 16,426.

“The comments are likely to be quite upbeat overall given that the Fed’s tapering process is already underway,” said Michael Every, head of financial-markets research for Asia- Pacific at Rabobank International in Hong Kong.

The Fed’s decision to maintain the pace of bond buying during 2013 helped the S&P 500 jump 30 percent last year. Fed officials said they will reduce their monthly purchases of assets to $75 billion from $85 billion starting this month, citing faster-than-estimated economic growth.

Reports yesterday indicated applications for U.S. unemployment benefits declined last week to the lowest level in a month and that manufacturing grew in December at the second- fastest pace in more than two years. Carmakers will report monthly sales today and there are no government economic reports scheduled.

Bernanke Talk

Bernanke speaks at the American Economic Association’s event in Philadelphia at 2:30 p.m. Bernanke, who has led the central bank during its record quantitative-easing program, ends his eight-year tenure on Jan. 31.

The S&P 500 retreated 0.9 percent yesterday, the most in three weeks. The decline snapped a streak of five straight gains on the first trading session of January. The index had risen an average of almost 2 percent that day since 2009, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The gauge surged 30 percent in 2013, finishing the year at an all-time high for the first time since 1999. The Dow average climbed 27 percent in 2013 for its best performance since 1995.

Equity returns will slow this year, Wall Street strategists forecast. The S&P 500 will end 2014 at 1,950, according to the average of 20 estimates compiled by Bloomberg. That represents a 5.5 percent gain from the end of 2013.

Earnings Forecast

Analysts estimate earnings for S&P 500 companies in the fourth quarter grew by 5.2 percent, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Alcoa will unofficially begin the reporting season when it discloses results after the markets close on Jan. 9.

FireEye, which offers security for e-mail, files and websites, jumped 21 percent to $49.60. A venture-capital firm set up by the Central Intelligence Agency invested in FireEye in 2009. Mandiant specializes in detecting malware and responding to incidents.

Sprint fell 1.8 percent to $10.21 after Stifel downgraded the company. The brokerage said Sprint would struggle to obtain regulatory approval for a merger with T-Mobile US Inc.

Exelon Corp. declined 1.6 percent to $26.74. Citigroup Inc. gave the shares a sell rating, while Bank of America Corp. downgraded them to underperform, which is similar to a sell rating, from neutral.

Finisar Corp. gained 3.8 percent to $24.15. Raymond James Financial Inc. raised its rating of the shares to strong buy from outperform.

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