US STOCKS-Futures point to flat open after recent decline

* Indexes have fallen for two straight weeks

* Alcoa to buy RTI International for $ 1.5 bln

* GM up in premarket, to launch buyback program

* Futures up: Dow 12 pts, S&P 3 pts, Nasdaq 8.5 pts (Updates trading, adds McDonald’s sales)

By Ryan Vlastelica

NEW YORK, March 9 (Reuters) – Dow Futures pointed to a flat open on Monday, after two straight weeks of declines on major indexes and as the benchmark S&P 500 comes off its biggest one-day loss in about two months.

Wall Street’s recent downtrend has come as investors speculated over whether interest rates could be raised sooner than expected. Friday’s weakness was driven by a jobs report that was much stronger than expected, which was seen as possibly pressuring the Federal Reserve to act soon on monetary policy. The central bank had said it would raise rates when the economy was deemed strong enough to support such a move.

While a more robust economy is better for stocks in the long run, investors have been concerned that a rate rise too soon – which would raise borrowing costs for companies and individuals – could damp growth as the economy’s recovery has been slow.

The S&P 500 remains about 2 percent from its record closing high. The Dow is also near record levels, while the Nasdaq is 2.4 percent below its record close, which was hit in March 2000.

Premarket volume was light, suggesting investors were reluctant to jump in at current levels. That could amplify market volatility, as could this week’s economic data, including retail sales and consumer sentiment, which may provide further insight into the Fed’s plans for interest rates.

Alcoa Inc fell 3.4 percent to $ 13.99 in premarket trading after it said it would buy RTI International Metals Inc for $ 1.5 billion. RTI jumped 42 percent to $ 38.80.

McDonald’s Corp fell 1 percent to $ 96.10 after the company said its same-store sales fell more than expected in February.

Apple Inc rose 1 percent to $ 127.92 in premarket trading. The company will be in focus Monday amid its “Spring Forward” event, which will be followed with interest by investors looking for details on its new Apple Watch product.

General Motors said it plans a new, $ 5 billion share buyback in an agreement with dissident investors, and put forward more details on capital allocation that promises investors the potential for further cash returns. Shares rose 3.3 percent to $ 37.73 before the bell.

Whiting Petroleum Corp rose 10.5 percent to $ 35.60 before the bell. Late Friday, the Wall Street Journal reported that the company was seeking a possible buyer, though a person familiar with the board’s thinking told Reuters he was not aware of any such plan.

CTI BioPharma Corp jumped 7.9 percent to $ 2.86 in heavy premarket trading after the company’s experimental blood cancer treatment achieved the main goal of a late-stage study.

Futures snapshot at 8:50 a.m. EDT (1250 GMT):

* S&P 500 e-minis were up 3 points, or 0.14 percent, with 142,912 contracts changing hands.

* Nasdaq 100 e-minis were up 8.5 points, or 0.19 percent, in volume of 23,596 contracts.

* Dow e-minis were up 12 points, or 0.07 percent, with 19,164 contracts changing hands.

(Editing by Bernadette Baum)

Dow Futures

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