By Barbara Kollmeyer, MarketWatch
LONDON (MarketWatch) â" U.S. stock futures were trading in a narrow range Thursday as a heavy schedule of earnings began to roll in and investors awaited economic data such as weekly jobless claims. A downgrade of Japanâs sovereign debt was also in the spotlight.
Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 6 points to 11,942, while those for the S&P 500 fell 0.5 points to 1,293.10. Futures for the Nasdaq 100 rose 2.5 points to 2,320.75.
Fed keeps cheap money flowing
At their first policy-setting meeting of 2011, central bank officials vote unanimously to continue buying government bonds to boost the recovery.
The Dow Industrials /quotes/comstock/10w!i:dji/delayed (DJIA 11,985, +8.25, +0.07%) topped 12,000 on an intraday-level basis for the first time in over two years on Wednesday, in the wake of positive housing data and President Obamaâs State of the Union address.
The Dow finished up 0.1% to 11,985.44.
Analysts said investors will be waiting to see if the Dow retests that key 12,000 level on Thursday, amid a heavy schedule of data and earnings.
Among data on tap, weekly jobless claims and December durable-goods orders are due at 8:30 a.m. Eastern time. Pending home sales are due at 10 a.m. Eastern.
âRecent economic indicators from the U.S. have been broadly positive, with even the housing market receiving a boost with yesterdayâs new-home-sales data, and the bulls will be hoping for more of the same ahead of tomorrowâs key GDP figures,â said Anthony Grech, head of research at IG Index, in emailed comments.
The earnings schedule was also heavy, with stocks reacting in preopen trades on results released on Thursday, and after the close of markets on Wednesday.
Caterpillar Inc. /quotes/comstock/13*!cat/quotes/nls/cat (CAT 95.75, +1.36, +1.44%) Â shares advanced after it said profit reached $968 million, or $1.47 a share, from $232 million, or 36 cents a share, in the year-ago period.
Shares of Netflix,Inc. /quotes/comstock/15*!nflx/quotes/nls/nflx (NFLX 183.03, -3.71, -1.99%) jumped 12% in preopening trade after overnight posting a 52% fourth-quarter profit rise and first-quarter forecast that was above expectations.
Shares of Nokia Oyj /quotes/comstock/13*!nok/quotes/nls/nok (NOK 10.73, +0.14, +1.32%) Â fell 6.5% in premarket action after issuing a weak profit outlook for its handset division and a 16% fall in fourth-quarter profit. See story on Nokia.
Shares of Qualcomm Inc. /quotes/comstock/15*!qcom/quotes/nls/qcom (QCOM 51.86, +0.34, +0.66%) Â rose 5% in preopening trade after late Wednesday posting a nearly 40% rise in quarterly earnings, shooting past Wall Street forecasts.
Shares of AstraZenca PLC /quotes/comstock/13*!azn/quotes/nls/azn (AZN 48.59, +0.44, +0.91%) Â were up 2.7% in preopen trade after reporting its fourth-quarter net profit rose 4.4%, while revenue fell 3.7%.
Shares of Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan Inc. /quotes/comstock/13*!pot/quotes/nls/pot (POT 168.62, +5.69, +3.49%) Â rose 3% in preopen trading after reporting fourth-quarter earnings of $1.61 per share, more than doubling that of a year ago, as sales jumped 64% to $1.81 billion.
Also reporting, Eli Lilly and Co. /quotes/comstock/13*!lly/quotes/nls/lly (LLY 34.95, +0.22, +0.63%) Â said fourth-quarter net profit rose 28% on a 4% rise in revenue. It sees earnings per share for 2011 at $3.92 to $4.07 on a reported basis.
Lockheed Martin Corp. /quotes/comstock/13*!lmt/quotes/nls/lmt (LMT 78.39, -0.68, -0.86%) Â reported a 19% rise in fourth-quarter profit on a sales gain of 4.8%, and forecast revenue in a range of $45.75 billion to $47.25 billion, and earnings from continuing operations of between $6.70 and $7.00 a share.
Procter & Gamble Co. /quotes/comstock/13*!pg/quotes/nls/pg (PG 66.11, -0.59, -0.88%) Â reported sales rose 2% and operating net income of $1.11 a share, and also affirmed its profit outlook.
After the market close, Microsoft Corp. /quotes/comstock/15*!msft/quotes/nls/msft (MSFT 28.78, +0.33, +1.16%) Â and Amazon.com Inc. /quotes/comstock/15*!amzn/quotes/nls/amzn (AMZN 175.39, -1.31, -0.74%) Â will report, among others.
In Asia overnight, focus was on Japan where Standard & Poorâs cut Japanâs long-term debt rating to AA minus from AA, citing high fiscal deficit woes for the country. The dollar jumped against the yen after the announcement, which came after the close of Tokyo stock markets. See story on S&Pâs downgrade of Japan.
The dollar was last up 1.1% to Â¥83.03.
In Shanghai, stocks advanced, with resource stocks offsetting a fall in property developers after China introduced new measures to combat rising home prices.
In Europe, stocks were higher for a second day, with gains for miners compensating for a handful of weak corporate results. Shares of Novartis AG /quotes/comstock/13*!nvs/quotes/nls/nvs (NVS 57.94, +0.14, +0.24%) fell in Switzerland after it warned of a difficult 2011 on patent expiries and drug-price cuts in the U.S. See European Markets.
Gold futures for February delivery rose 40 cents to $1,333.40 an ounce.
Barbara Kollmeyer is an editor for MarketWatch in Madrid.Powered By iWebRSS.com