RTTNews - European stock index futures point towards a lower opening by the European markets on Friday amid disappointing quarterly results announced by some U.S. companies, including Microsoft, Amazon. com Inc and American Express after the close of market hours on Wall Street Thursday. Profit taking after a 9-day rally may also weigh on trading.

A few crucial economic reports are on tap in the European session today. U.K.'s statistical office is expected to reveal the economy's performance in the second quarter and German think-tank Ifo will give a picture of business climate in the country. On a quarterly basis, GDP is expected to fall 0.3% in the second quarter after falling 2.4% in the first quarter. Compared to the same quarter of the previous year, a decline of 5.2% is seen for the second quarter.

Buoyed by strong earnings reports and home sales data from the U.S., Asian stocks extended their gains on Friday, with a few of them extending their winning streak to seven or eight sessions. Investor sentiment remains upbeat, as the number of top notch companies coming out with better-than-expected earnings reports has been increasing by the day.

Meanwhile, on Wall Street, stocks staged a substantial rally on Thursday, helped by an encouraging report on existing home sales and better-than-expected results from a few top firms including 3M, Ford and Wyeth. McDonald's, AT&T, Qualcomm also beat forecasts, although by more modest margins.

While data from the National Association of Realtors showed that existing home sales increased for the third consecutive month in June, a separate report from the Labor Department revealed that jobless claims rose by slightly less than economists had expected. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 2.12% to close above 9,000 for the first time since January and the S&P 500 index advanced 2.33%, while the Nasdaq Composite index added 2.45%, extending its winning streak for the twelfth straight session.

Crude oil futures for September delivery closed at a three week high of $67.16 a barrel, up $1.76 in New York trading on Thursday, boosted by a strong rally on Wall Street and encouraging earnings and economic data. In Asian trading on Friday, crude oil fell modestly to $66.99 a barrel after a sharp rise in the previous session.

In corporate news, Swedish telecom equipment maker Ericsson said on Thursday that it will bid for rival Nortel's mobile network unit in an auction Friday.

Italian auto maker Fiat SpA sold ?1.25 billion of three-year bonds at an yield of 9 percent, due to mature in 2012.

Germany's drug and chemical maker Merck KGAa said on Thursday that it submitted a marketing authorization application for its multiple sclerosis (MS) pill cladribine to the European Medicines Agency.

Air France-KLM, Europe's largest carrier, said that sales had fallen 21 percent to 5.19 billion euros in the first quarter of its 2009-10 fiscal year

French engineering groups Alstom and Schneider Electric said on Thursday they plan to make a joint bid for the transmission and distribution unit Areva has put up for sale.

French building materials group Saint Gobain reported an 88 percent bigger-than-estimated plunge in its first-half profit.

TeliaSonera reported second-quarter net income attributable to owners of the parent of SEK 4.47 billion, compared to SEK 4.13 billion last year.

The European markets rose for the ninth day on Thursday, the longest winning streak since 2006, as better-than-expected earnings from Roche to ABB and upbeat U.S. existing home sales data raised optimism that the global economy is on a recovery mode. The FTSEurofirst 300 index of pan-European blue chips closed 2.03% higher, while the narrower DJ Stoxx 50 index rose 2.16%. Around Europe, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 index rose 1.47%, France's CAC 40 index advanced 2.08% and Germany's DAX index added 2.45% .

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