MarketWatch.com - Pre-Market Indications

Friday, March 26, 2010

Indications: Stock futures edge higher after GDP data

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By Simon Kennedy & Kate Gibson, MarketWatch

NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- U.S. stock futures pointed higher Friday as investors cast their eyes over Oracle Corp.'s earnings and considered the latest readings on the country's economic growth.

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Stock futures lightly pared gains after the Commerce Department reported real gross domestic product increased at a 5.6% pace in the final quarter of 2009.

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 22 points. S&P 500 futures rose 3 points to 1,165.7 and Nasdaq 100 futures gained 5.25 points to 1,954.75.

U.S. markets ended mixed Thursday after an early rally evaporated as a strengthening dollar sapped gains in commodities and related shares, and further weak demand Treasury notes also weighed. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed up around 5 points, while the S&P 500 fell 1.99 points and the Nasdaq Composite declined 1.35 points.

Due out after Friday's open are figures on consumer sentiment for March from the University of Michigan.

Joseph LaVorgna, chief U.S. economist at Deutsche Bank, said sentiment likely will lag other indicators of economic improvement until the labor market improves.

"A sustained improvement in household attitudes generally does not occur until the unemployment rate enters a noticeable downtrend -- something we expect to become more apparent over the next couple of months," he said in a note to clients.

The dollar lost ground against the euro Friday, reversing gains from the previous session when it hit a ten-month high against the European currency. That move came after euro-zone nations announced a plan to support debt-burdened Greece, if needed, through bilateral loans and the International Monetary Fund.

The euro /quotes/comstock/21o!x:seurusd (CUR_EURUSD 1.3398, +0.0121, +0.9114%) was recently up 0.8% at $1.337.

In energy trading, oil future stepped higher, with the May-dated light crude contract gaining 57 cents to stand at $81.09 a barrel in trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Among companies in Friday's focus, Oracle /quotes/comstock/15*!orcl/quotes/nls/orcl (ORCL 25.64, -0.40, -1.54%) reported a dip in fiscal third-quarter profit to $1.2 billion. But the company also said late Thursday that sales rose 17% as it benefited from a pick-up in spending on business software as well as contributions from recently acquired Sun Microsystems Inc. See story on Oracle's earnings.

Also after Thursday's close, Accenture /quotes/comstock/13*!acn/quotes/nls/acn (ACN 42.21, +0.69, +1.66%) said net income for its fiscal second quarter fell to $462 million from $502 million as revenue dipped 2% to $5.18 billion.

Meanwhile, the New York Post reported that RadioShack Corp. /quotes/comstock/13*!rsh/quotes/nls/rsh (RSH 23.56, +1.76, +8.07%) is considering a sale of the company that could fetch more than $3 billion. One potential buyer might be Best Buy /quotes/comstock/13*!bby/quotes/nls/bby (BBY 43.24, +0.58, +1.36%) , according to the report.

News Corp. /quotes/comstock/15*!nws/quotes/nls/nws (NWS 17.14, +0.10, +0.59%) /quotes/comstock/15*!nwsa/quotes/nls/nwsa (NWSA 14.52, +0.09, +0.59%) said it will begin charging for the Web sites of British newspapers The Times and The Sunday Times, starting in June. Both sites will be available for one pound ($1.48) a day, or two pounds a week. News Corp. also owns MarketWatch, the publisher of this report.

European markets were subdued as the trading week drew to a close, with Germany's DAX 30 Index dipping 0.2%, while many Asian markets posted strong gains overnight, with Japan's Nikkei 225 Average jumping 1.5%.

Greek banks rallied after the aid package as well as a move by the European Central Bank to ease collateral rules.

Simon Kennedy is the City correspondent for MarketWatch in London. Kate Gibson is a reporter for MarketWatch, based in New York.


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