Stock index futures were higher on Friday as bargain hunters entered the market after a string of declines, putting equities on track to record their strongest quarter in more than two years.
The S&P 500 has fallen for three straight days but remains up 2.8 percent in March and up almost 12 percent for the first quarter. If the gains hold, it would be best start to the year since 1998 and the index's best quarter since the third period of 2009.
Some analysts look for a market pullback in the second quarter after the strong early run as investors seek confirmation the economic recovery will not stall.
Today's rise is mostly related to the end of the quarter, and we're expecting a pullback next quarter, with technology an especially vulnerable area, said Scott Freeze, president of StreetOne Financial in Huntington Valley, Pennsylvania.
Tech shares <.GSPT> have surged 21.5 percent this quarter, led largely by a surge in iPad maker Apple Inc
We're bearish on Apple, which could be the tail that wags the dog, said Freeze. If it declines, so will tech.
S&P 500 futures rose 7.3 points and were above fair value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the contract. Dow Jones industrial average futures added 56 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 12.75 points.
The decline this week in equities has come partly on discouraging economic data. Indicators on consumer sentiment and manufacturing activity will be scrutinized later in the day for insight into the pace of growth.
The final March Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers, due at 9:55 a.m. EDT (1355 GMT), is seen rising to 74.7 from 74.3 in the preliminary report.
In addition, February personal income and consumption data will be released at 8:30 a.m. EDT (1230 GMT) while the Institute of Supply Management-Chicago releases the March index of manufacturing activity at 9:45 a.m. EDT (1345 GMT).
Economists expect income to rise 0.4 percent and spending to increase 0.6 percent. The forecast is for manufacturing at 63.0, compared with 64.0 in February.
Research in Motion Ltd
Verizon Communications Inc
The Dow managed a slim gain on Thursday while the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq shook off most of their earlier losses to end slightly lower as investors bought blue chips that have been rallying throughout the quarter.
(Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)