US STOCKS-Wall St set for higher open on 2011 optimism

* China cuts rare earth export quotas; Molycorp climbs

* Futures up: Dow 18 pts, S&P 2.4 pts, Nasdaq 6.5 pts

* For up-to-the-minute market news see [STXNEWS/US]
(Adds BJ’s, updates prices)

By Chuck Mikolajczak

NEW YORK, Dec 29 (BestGrowthStock) – U.S. stocks (Read more about the stock market today. ) were set for a
modestly higher open on Wednesday, indicating stocks were on
track to extend a December rally as investors remained bullish
about the prospects of a global economic rebound in 2011.

The S&P 500 has risen 6.6 percent in December, pushing the
benchmark index above levels reached on Sept. 12, 2008, the
last trading day before Lehman Brothers collapsed, as improving
economic data and political events have encouraged
risk-taking.

“With the passage of the extension of the tax cuts for two
years, we now have a pretty firm basis on what tax policy will
be for the next two years. The Republicans (who will take)charge will restrain some of the activism of the administration
with regards to new initiatives,” said Peter Jankovskis,
co-chief investment officer at OakBrook Investments LLC in
Lisle, Illinois.

“All of that leads me to think we are in for a fairly
stable environment — at least for the next year or so.”

The December rally has been fueled in large part by gains
in financial shares, indicating investor confidence in economic
prospects, with the KBW Bank index (.BKX: ) up 17.3 percent for
the month.

“Performance of the financials is allowing investors to
look ahead with greater confidence than has not been seen in
quite awhile. Compared to its global peers, the U.S. market is
gaining fans,” said Andre Bakhos, director of market analytics
at Lek Securities in New York.

S&P 500 futures (SPc1: ) rose 2.4 points and were above fair
value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account
interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the
contract. Dow Jones industrial average futures (DJc1: ) gained 18
points, and Nasdaq 100 futures (NDc1: ) added 6.5 points.

BJ’s Wholesale Club (BJ.N: ) jumped 6.1 percent to $47.20
after the New York Post reported U.S. buyout firm Leonard Green
& Partners remained keen to acquire the warehouse club operator
and may launch a hostile bid if an auction is not initiated in
the coming weeks, citing sources. [ID:nSGE6BS065]

A judge has ruled that SAP AG (SAPG.DE: ) must pay Oracle
Corp (ORCL.O: ) prejudgment interest on a recent $1.3 billion
copyright infringement verdict, but not using Oracle’s formula.
For details, see [ID:nN28262398]

Shares of rare earths companies soared Wednesday after
China cut export quotas, threatening to reduce already tight
global supplies and risking action from the United States at
the World Trade Organization. Molycorp Inc (MCP.N: ), which owns
a rare-earth mine in Mountain Pass, California, rose 4.5
percent to $48.25 in premarket trade. [ID:nL3E6NT08N]

Private equity company Blackstone Group LP (BX.N: ) has
joined the bidding for Australian shopping-center owner Centro
Properties Group’s (CNP.AX: ) asset portfolio, the Wall Street
Journal reported. [ID:nL3E6NT050]

Starbucks Corp (SBUX.O: ) denied claims that Kraft Foods Inc
(KFT.N: ) performed “exceptionally well” under an agreement to
sell Starbucks’ packaged coffee, court documents showed.
[ID:nSGE6BS03F]. Kraft shares slipped 0.6 percent to $31.66 in
premarket.
(Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

US STOCKS-Wall St set for higher open on 2011 optimism