U.S. stock index futures fall; techs in spotlight

* U.S. stock index futures pointed to a lower open on Wall
Street on Tuesday, with futures for the S&P 500 (SPc1: Quote, Profile, Research) down 0.3
percent, Dow Jones (DJc1: Quote, Profile, Research) futures down 0.1 percent and Nasdaq
100 (NDc1: Quote, Profile, Research) futures down 0.8 percent at 0752 GMT.

* Tech shares will be a focus after Texas Instruments
(TXN.N: Quote, Profile, Research) launched a $6.5 billion takeover bid for National
Semiconductor Corp (NSM.N: Quote, Profile, Research), offering a 78 percent premium to
merge two of the industry’s oldest companies into a dominant
force in analog microchips used in products from cars to phones.
[ID:nN04281619]

* Texas Instruments stock traded in Frankfurt (TXN.F: Quote, Profile, Research) was
down 1.5 percent.

* Exchange operator Nasdaq OMX Group (NDAQ.O: Quote, Profile, Research) said it will
rebalance its benchmark Nasdaq-100 index, cutting the weighting
of Apple (AAPL.O: Quote, Profile, Research). [ID:nL3E7F510G]

* U.S. chemicals group DuPont (DD.N: Quote, Profile, Research) said the European
Commission has approved its acquisition of Danish food
ingredients and enzymes maker Danisco (DCO.CO: Quote, Profile, Research) and it expected
to close the transaction this month. [ID:nLDE7340AX]

* Oil prices hovered near their highest levels since 2008 on
Tuesday, with Brent near $121 a barrel, as prices were supported
by the unrest in the Middle East and North Africa as well as
delays to elections in Nigeria. [O/R]

* Japan’s Nikkei average (.225: Quote, Profile, Research) fell 1.1 percent on Tuesday
with the mood soured by Tokyo Electric Power’s fall to an
all-time low. [.T]

* European stocks inched higher in thin volume in early
trade, helped by rallying tech shares on consolidation hopes
after the TI deal, while investors awaited the European Central
Bank’s interest rate decision and comment on Thursday.

* The ECB was expected to raise rates by 25 basis points
from a record low in reaction to rising inflationary pressures
in the euro zone. Two more 25-basis-point rate hikes have been
factored in by year-end. (ECBWATCH: Quote, Profile, Research)

* Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said a recent rise
in U.S. inflation was driven primarily by rising commodity
prices globally, and was unlikely to persist.

* Bernanke’s remarks were in sharp contrast to recent
comments made by a string of U.S. central bank officials, some
of whom have argued the time was coming for the Fed to begin
tightening monetary policy. [ID:nLDE73400S]

* Investors awaited the release of the Federal Open Market
Committee’s minutes from its meeting of March 15, due at 1800
GMT on Tuesday, to get more insight on the outlook for U.S.
interest rates.

* Credit rating agency Moody’s cut Portugal’s sovereign debt
one notch on Tuesday, saying an incoming government would likely
need to seek financing support from the European Union as a
matter of urgency. [ID:nL3E7F50X6]

* The S&P 500 met tough resistance on Monday, failing to
break a level that has held since mid-February and ending flat
even as a spate of deals and underlying strength in the economy
spurred optimism.

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S&P 500 faces resistance: http://r.reuters.com/daf88r

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* The Dow Jones industrial average (.DJI: Quote, Profile, Research) rose 23.31 points,
or 0.19 percent, to end at 12,400.03. The Standard & Poor’s 500
Index (.SPX: Quote, Profile, Research) rose 0.46 point, or 0.03 percent, to 1,332.87. The
Nasdaq Composite Index (.IXIC: Quote, Profile, Research) was down 0.41 point, or 0.01
percent, at 2,789.19.

* About 5.94 billion shares traded on the New York Stock
Exchange, NYSE Amex and Nasdaq, the lowest total of the year.
(Reporting by Blaise Robinson; Editing by Dan Lalor)

U.S. stock index futures fall; techs in spotlight