Updated March 29 at 5:29pm

U.S. stock futures rise on earnings before service-industry data


NEW YORK - U.S. stock futures rose, after the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index fell the most since November, as investors awaited earnings on companies from Walt Disney Co. to Expedia Inc. and a report on service-industries growth.

Virgin Media Inc. surged 20 percent after entering talks on a possible deal with John Malone’s Liberty Global Inc. Dell Inc. rose 0.8 percent as the board was said to vote on an offer to take the computer maker private. Yum! Brands Inc., owner of the KFC and Pizza Hut dining chains, slid 6.2 percent after cutting its profit forecast.

S&P 500 futures expiring in March gained 0.4 percent to 1,499.2 at 8:35 a.m. in New York. The index sank 1.2 percent yesterday amid concern that the European debt crisis may intensify. Dow Jones Industrial Average futures rose 47 points, or 0.3 percent, to 13,892 today.

“The markets seem to be rebounding from what was probably an overdone move yesterday,” Lorne Baring, managing director at B Capital SA in Geneva, which oversees almost $500 million, said in a phone interview. “Sentiment is positive at the moment and earnings have generally beat expectations. This opens the way for the U.S. market to continue its upward trend.”

The S&P 500 has rallied 4.9 percent in 2013 as U.S. lawmakers reached a budget compromise and companies reported better-than-estimated earnings. The measure tumbled the most since Nov. 14 yesterday as Spanish Premier Mariano Rajoy faced opposition calls to resign and Deutsche Bank AG said this year’s rally in Italian and Spanish bonds may falter.

Earnings season

About 75 percent of the 279 companies from the gauge that have released results since Jan. 8 have exceeded profit projections, and 66 percent have beaten sales estimates, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Disney and Expedia are among 27 companies in the S&P 500 scheduled to report today.

Data at 10 a.m. New York time may show that service industries in the U.S. grew in January at about the same pace as in the prior month, showing the biggest part of the economy is weathering Washington budget battles.

The projected 55 reading in the Institute for Supply Management’s non-manufacturing index would follow December’s 55.7 result, the highest level in 10 months, according to the median forecast of 76 economists in a Bloomberg News survey.

Virgin Media, the U.K.’s second-largest pay-television provider, rallied $7.65 to $46.34. Virgin and Liberty Global are in discussions “concerning a possible transaction,” Virgin Media said today in a statement, without providing details.

An acquisition would let Liberty Global add Virgin Media’s almost 5 million cable customers and open a new battle ground with fellow billionaire Rupert Murdoch, whose News Corp. controls the largest U.K. pay-TV provider, British Sky Broadcasting Group Plc.

Dell talks

Dell gained 10 cents to $13.37. The board was planning to meet last night to vote on an offer to take the company private for about $24 billion, people with knowledge of the matter said.

The deal may be announced today, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the process is private. The offer values Dell at $13.50 to $13.75 a share, said two of the people.

Zynga Inc. rose 5.5 percent to $2.70. Bank of America Corp. raised its rating on the biggest maker of social games to buy from underperform.

Yum! declined $3.99 to $59.95 after saying profit will be less than it previously expected as a probe into its chicken suppliers hurt sales in China. Earnings excluding certain items will drop this year, compared with a previous estimate for growth of 10 percent, the company said late yesterday in a statement.


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