* Bank of America to repay TARP money
* Jobless claims fall
* November retail sales weaker than expected
* Futures up: Dow 44 pts, S&P 4.4, Nasdaq 5.5 pts
By Chuck Mikolajczak
NEW YORK, Dec 3 (Reuters) - U.S. stock indexes pointed to a higher open on Thursday after Bank of America Corp said it would repay $45 billion in taxpayer bailout funds and data showed initial jobless claims fell last week.
Bank of America (BAC.N) shares gained 3 percent to $16.12 in premarket trade after the surprise announcement on Wednesday, which marks a victory for outgoing Chief Executive Kenneth Lewis and could free the top U.S. lender from pay curbs as it looks to hire a new CEO. For details, see [ID:nN0250856]
“The feeling out there in terms of leaders of these companies is they don’t want to be working for the government. You end up being caught up in politics, unnecessarily criticized and being made a villain,” said Tim Ghriskey, chief investment officer of Solaris Asset Management in Bedford Hills, New York.
“The timing is a bit of a surprise, but it helps with the overhang of the management issue and it helps with the overhang of big brother over controlling this bank.”
The Select Sector SPDR Financial ETF (XLF.P) rose 0.7 percent to $14.76 premarket. [ID:nN021776] [ID:nN0216884]
The numbers of U.S. workers unexpectedly filing new claims for unemployment unexpectedly fell last week, government data showed, while non-farm productivity was slightly less robust than previously thought. [ID:nN021776]
S&P 500 futures SPc1 rose 4.4 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 44 points, while Nasdaq 100 futures NDc1 added 5.5 points.
Several U.S. retailers posted weaker-than-expected sales for November in a slow kickoff to the key holiday shopping season as consumers worried about the economy and unemployment. [ID:nN0381393]
Comcast Corp (CMCSA.O) gained 2.7 percent to $15.35 premarket, while General Electric Co (GE.N) added 0.4 percent to $16.13 after the two struck a deal for Comcast to buy a majority stake in NBC Universal from GE, creating a media superpower that would control production as well as delivery to the home. [ID:nN03267923]
Toll Brothers Inc (TOL.N) dipped 3 percent to $18.90 after the luxury homebuilder recorded a wider-than-expected quarterly loss, but said it was seeing signs of recovery from a declining cancellation rate and an improved pace of contract signings. [ID:nBNG20115]
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke later Thursday will go before lawmakers considering his nomination to a second term at the central bank’s helm. [ID:nN0381443]
(Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)
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