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Wall Street Heads for a Higher Opening

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[April 02, 2008]  NEW YORK (AP) -- Wall Street appeared poised to modestly extend a massive prior day rally at Wednesday's opening as Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke prepared to give his economic views.

Bernanke will testify about the health of the economy to Congress. As usual, investors are hoping he will drop some hints as to whether the central bank plans to continue its aggressive interest rate cutting program.

However, they also will want to know how weak he considers the economy to be. Numerous economists have said they believe a recession is under way. However, Fed officials generally are cautious when describing the economy and a recession consists of two consecutive quarters of economic contraction and can only be declared in hindsight.

In addition, investors will be curious to see if Bernanke offers any insights into the Fed's role in aiding JP Morgan Chase & Co.'s purchase of Bear Stearns Cos. and whether he believes the credit crisis is nearing a conclusion. The Fed chairman is set to begin speaking as the market opens at 9:30 a.m. Eastern time.

Government data on factory orders in February is due at 10 a.m. Eastern. According to Thomson/IFR, there should be an unchanged level of orders in February, following a January decline of 2.5 percent.

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The futures contract for the Dow Jones industrial average rose 13 points, or 0.1 percent to 12,640. Futures contracts for the Standard & Poor's 500 fell just 0.20 point to 1,370.40 and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 3.8 points, or 0.2 percent to 1,861.5.

Wall Street began the second quarter Tuesday with a boisterous rally as investors rushed back into stocks, optimistic that the worst of the credit crisis has passed and that the economy is faring better than expected. All the major indexes were up more than 3 percent.

Tokyo's Nikkei index closed up 4.21 percent. There were gains on European bourses too, with London's FTSE 100 rising 0.08 percent, Frankfurt's DAX advancing 0.31 percent and Paris' CAC 40 gaining 0.23 percent.

[Associated Press; By LESLIE WINES]

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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