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Friday, January 29, 2010

Indications: Futures edge higher ahead of GDP data

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By Simon Kennedy, MarketWatch

LONDON (MarketWatch) -- U.S. stock market futures edged slightly higher Friday as markets awaited the latest figures on GDP and consumer sentiment, with earnings from Microsoft Corp. also in focus.

S&P 500 futures rose 2.8 points to 1,082 and Nasdaq 100 futures climbed 4 points to 1,774.50.

Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average added 23 points ahead of the last trading session of the month.

On the economic front, the first estimate of fourth-quarter gross domestic product is due at 8:30 a.m. Eastern, while a reading of consumer sentiment will come after the market opens.

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Economists surveyed by MarketWatch are expecting a bumper 5.4% rise in GDP -- the fastest growth rate in nearly four years -- though most of that growth is seen coming from adjustments to inventories, rather than sales of goods and services. See story on GDP expectations.

Friday's data will also likely be especially closely watched after disappointing updates on both jobless claims and durable goods orders in the previous session. Also as markets were closing Thursday the Senate voted to confirm Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke to a second four-year term. The vote on final confirmation was 70 to 30.

The dollar climbed against the yen and was broadly steady against the euro ahead of the data. The dollar rose 0.5% to 90.21 yen.

Oil futures edged higher, with the March-dated light crude contract adding 5 cents at $73.69 a barrel in electronic trading.

Among the companies in focus, Microsoft /quotes/comstock/15*!msft/quotes/nls/msft (MSFT 29.16, -0.51, -1.72%) late Thursday posted a 60% rise in fiscal second-quarter profit to $6.66 billion, or 74 cents a share as the software giant benefited from improving personal computer sales and recent release of its flagship Windows 7 operating system. See story on Microsoft's forecast-beating numbers.

Microsoft rose 1.3% in pre-market trading.

Amazon.com /quotes/comstock/15*!amzn/quotes/nls/amzn (AMZN 126.03, +3.28, +2.67%) added nearly 3% in pre-market action after reporting a 71% profit surge.

Among companies reporting results Friday, Mattel Inc. /quotes/comstock/15*!mat/quotes/nls/mat (MAT 20.04, +0.08, +0.40%) topped expectations with an 86% rise in net profit to $328 million, or 89 cents a share, while Honeywell International /quotes/comstock/13*!hon/quotes/nls/hon (HON 39.82, -0.44, -1.09%) said its fourth-quarter earnings slipped to 91 cents a share from 97 cents a share.

Still ahead are results from Chevron Corp. /quotes/comstock/13*!cvx/quotes/nls/cvx (CVX 73.24, -0.46, -0.62%) , which is expected to post earnings of $1.70 a share.

European markets climbed Friday, helped by well-received updates from BMW and Infineon, with the German DAX 30 index climbing 0.9%.

Most Asian markets declined as the overnight fall on Wall Street triggered a renewed bout of risk aversion, with Japan's Nikkei 225 dropping 2.1%.

A day-long slide in stocks Thursday, fueled by weakness in the technology sector, left the market poised for its worst monthly decline since last February. The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended Thursday's session down 115.7 points to 10,120.46.

Simon Kennedy is the City correspondent for MarketWatch in London.


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