March 14, 2012 / 11:43 AM / 5 years ago

US STOCKS - Futures edge higher on economic optimism

* Most U.S. banks pass stress tests

* Q4 current account, Feb import-export data on tap

* Futures up: Dow 25 pts, S&P 2 pts, Nasdaq 4.25 pts

By Chuck Mikolajczak

NEW YORK, March 14 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures edged higher on Wednesday, putting the benchmark index on track for its sixth straight advance after comments from the U.S. Federal Reserve on the economy and banking sector helped boost optimism.

* The Fed said most of the largest U.S. banks passed their annual stress test in a report that underscored the recovery of the financial sector but called out a few laggards, including Citigroup Inc.

* Banks have been a leading component of the 11 percent rally in the S&P for the year, with the KBW Bank index up more than 20 percent and the S&P financial sector index up more than 18 percent.

* Bank of America Corp climbed 1.7 percent to $8.53 in premarket trade. Citigroup Inc dropped 2.9 percent to $35.40.

* Late in Tuesday's session, the Fed also said it expects "moderate" growth over coming quarters with the unemployment rate declining gradually versus the "modest" growth the central bank said it expected in January.

* S&P 500 futures rose 2 points and were slightly above fair value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the contract. Dow Jones industrial average futures rose 22 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures added 4.25 points.

* The increasing optimism on the U.S. economy helped boost the dollar, which hit an 11-month high against the yen and 1-month high versus the euro.

* Economic data on tap for Wednesday includes fourth-quarter current account deficit figures from the Commerce Department at 8:30 a.m. (1230 GMT). Economists forecast a $114.2 billion deficit versus a deficit of $110.28 billion in Q3.

* Also due at 8:30 a.m. are import-export prices for February. Economists forecast a 0.6 percent rise in import prices and a 0.2 percent increase in export prices. In the prior month, import prices rose 0.3 percent and export prices were up 0.2 percent.

* Swiss drugmaker Roche Holding AG said it received a request for additional information from the Federal Trade Commission related to its $5.7 billion hostile bid for U.S. gene decoder Illumina Inc.

* European shares rose to reach fresh 33-week highs, led by financials as Fed improved its economic outlook for the world's largest economy and said most U.S. banks had passed its stress tests.

* Asian shares advanced as upbeat U.S. economic data plus signs of improving capital positions at big American banks stoked appetites for risk.

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