Stock futures rise after six weeks of S&P losses Featured

8:53am EDT June 13, 2011

(Reuters) - Stock index futures edged higher on Monday after six weeks of declines for the S&P 500 left equities at more attractive levels.

The S&P 500 has tumbled nearly 7 percent on the back of a barrage of soft economic data after closing at its highest closing level in nearly three years on April 29.

Worries about a global economic slowdown have continued to hover over equity markets, with investors expecting the S&P 500 to slip toward its March low near 1,250 before the market can come back. The benchmark closed near 1,270 on Friday.

"I think we've come a lot closer to the end of the selloff," said Rick Meckler, president of investment firm LibertyView Capital Management in New York. "We've retrenched quite a bit, and we seem to be finding considerable more support at these levels."

In a sign that valuations are hitting enticing levels, insurer Allied World Assurance Co Holdings Ltd. agreed to buy Transatlantic Holdings Inc. for $3.2 billion in stock.

Also, VF Corp, owner of the North Face and Wrangler clothing brands, will buy shoemaker Timberland Co. in a $2 billion deal. Timberland shares jumped about 43 percent to $42.75 in premarket trade.

"Merger activity is likely (to continue) because of the low interest rates, and it's also attractive from an operational point of view," Meckler said.

"That will be a continued positive (for equities)."

In a positive sign for the consumer, U.S. crude prices fell more than $1 to near $98 per barrel. Growing investor concern about an economic slowdown combined with rising output from Saudi Arabia and have pressured prices lower.

S&P 500 futures rose 3.7 points and were above fair value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration of the contract. Dow Jones industrial average futures gained 43 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures added 4.25 points.

The Fed said Friday it will buy $50 billion of U.S. Treasuries, the final series of government bond purchases that marks the last phase of a $600 billion program launched in November 2010 to help jump-start the economy.

European shares were up 0.3 percent as bargain hunters picked through the debris after six weeks of losses. Concerns over the health of the global economy and the lack of consensus from policymakers on how to tackle Greece's debt crisis limited gains.