Futures heading higher ahead of retail report

NEW YORK (AP) — Stock futures edged higher on a report of rising retail sales and ahead of what are expected to be signs of increased confidence from U.S. businesses.

And shares of J.C. Penney rose 2 percent Tuesday before the opening bell after the retailer announced the resignation from the board of Pershing Square’s Bill Ackman, a huge stakeholder who has clashed with other directors.

Dow Jones industrial futures gained 36 points to 15,423. S&P futures added 3.7 points to 1,690.80. Nasdaq futures rose 5.25 points to 3,129.25.

There are also indications that much-needed spending by consumers may contribute more to an economic recovery in the U.S.

U.S. retail sales edged up in July despite a drop in auto sales, which has dominated the sector this year.

The Commerce Department reported Tuesday that retail sales increased 0.2 percent in July from June. Sales had risen 0.6 percent in June from May. The change in both months was driven by autos, which surged 2.9 percent in June but fell 1 percent in July.

Consumer spending drives about 70 percent of economic activity in the U.S., so it’s a crucial factor in any recovery.

Commerce reports on U.S. inventories later Tuesday and most economists expect to see businesses have stocked up in response to more healthy sales.

Early Tuesday, J.C. Penney announced the of activist investor Bill Ackman, who said publicly last week that he had lost confidence in the board and also pushed aggressively for a change in the CEO position.

J.C. Penney is expected to report its second-quarter financial results on Aug. 20. Its stock gained 27 cents to $13.44 before the market opened.

Stocks rose overseas on increasing confidence among German investment professionals, and also on anticipation that Japan will ramp up stimulus efforts after disappointing growth during the most recent quarter.

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