February 26, 2018 / 12:55 PM / 7 months ago

US STOCKS-Futures rise as Powell takes center stage

* Futures up: Dow 156 pts, S&P 10.25 pts, Nasdaq 19 pts

By Sruthi Shankar

Feb 26 (Reuters) - U.S. index futures pointed to a strong start for Wall Street on Monday, buoyed by gains for stock markets worldwide and the belief that new Fed chair Jerome Powell will keep the U.S. central bank on a steady course of monetary tightening.

Powell faces questions from both houses of the U.S. Congress in semi-annual testimony starting on Tuesday, his first major set piece since he took over at the start of February.

Traders have worried that Powell's appointment could make the Fed less ready to soften its policy line when markets sound the alarm - as they did in a selloff earlier this month due to a rise in U.S. government bond yields.

Powell has said little about the selloff, besides saying at his swearing-in ceremony last week that "we will remain alert to any developing risks to financial stability."

The Fed said on Friday it expected economic growth to remain steady and saw no serious risks on the horizon that might pause its planned pace of rate hikes.

The week is heavy on data, with a report on personal consumption expenditure, the Fed's favorite gauge of inflation, expected on Thursday.

By 6:49 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis had gained 156 points, S&P 500 e-minis added 10.25 points and Nasdaq 100 e-minis rose 19 points.

Among stocks, Qualcomm shares rose 3.44 percent in premarket trading after the chipmaker urged peer Broadcom to enter into direct negotiations on a price for merging the two and said they had made progress on regulatory and other deal certainty issues at a meeting last week.

GE shares edged up 0.5 percent after the company nominated three new candidates for its board of directors.

Mattel slipped 3.9 percent after brokerage Jefferies downgraded the toymaker' s stock to "underperform."

The U.S. 10-year Treasury yield eased to 2.8623 percent , continuing a slip from the four-year high hit last week, while the CBOE Volatility index, known as Wall Street's fear gauge, was last at 16.42 points, its lowest level in about three weeks.

On Monday, data on U.S. new home sales for January, expected to increase 3.2 percent to a seasonally adjusted rate of 645,000 units, is due at 10:00 a.m. ET. Speakers include Fed's St. Louis President James Bullard and Fed Vice Chair for Supervision Randal Quarles. (Reporting by Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D'Silva)

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