Just when you thought it wasn't safe to go back in the water, along comes a Wal-Mart Stores profit beat, sending stock-index futures higher on hopes consumer spending might be stronger than expected going into the holiday shopping season. Notwithstanding the downturn in U.S. housing and construction, Home Depot's quarterly profit decline generally met analysts' expectations, ahead of a new reading on pending home sales in September set for release near the end of the afternoon session. The August housing report was the weakest on record for the seven-year-old index, as the meltdown in mortgage markets cut off many buyers' ability to finance purchases. "The housing downturn continues to deepen, risking spreading to consumer spending," BMO Capital Markets said in a morning commentary that predicts a 3 per cent decline in pending home sales. Wall Street also will get a closer look at how the credit squeeze is impacting consumer spending, with two sets of weekly retail sales reports before trading begins. At 7:30 a.m. EST, Dow Jones industrial futures are up 82 points, as traders figure investors may be reluctant to push the benchmark average further below 13,000. S&P 500 futures are up 10.8 points and Nasdaq 100 futures up 10.75 points. "I kind of think the market is going to encounter a technical rebound [Tuesday]" Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Avalon Partners, told Reuters. "We had solid corporate news already." Besides the retailing sector, stocks to watch include Apple after China Mobile said it is in talks to sell the iPhone handset in China. Mauled by a downgrade on Monday that erased 59 per cent of E-Trade Financial's market value, the online broker rebounded slightly, rising just over 3 per cent in after-hours trading.
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