Stock futures point to higher open, but volume seen low

By @ibtimes on

U.S. stock index futures pointed to a higher open on Friday as investors speculated quarterly earnings would show continued growth, but volume during the session was expected to be light.

The earnings season will begin unofficially with Alcoa Inc , the first Dow component to release results after the market's close on Monday. JPMorgan Chase & Co and Google Inc are due to report later in the week.

Recent volume has been among the lowest of the year as investors wait to see how corporations are faring in an environment with overseas headwinds but also signs of recovery.

Markets are showing signs of strength in anticipation of strong profits next week, and we're likely to see a pickup in volume if we get some blow-out numbers, said Eric Teal, who helps manage $4.5 billion as chief investment officer at First Citizens Bancshares Inc in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Teal added that there was downside potential if earnings failed to live up to expectations that many consider high. The move we saw in the first quarter is contingent upon some follow-through with strong earnings, he said.

If we see lackluster earnings, I think stocks are set up to have a mild correction.

S&P 500 futures rose 6 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 53 points and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 8.75 points.

Commodity stocks rose on Friday, with prices driven by expectations of stronger demand or threats of supply shortages. Copper rose 1.9 percent while Brent crude gained 1.5 percent as attacks on Libyan oil fields continued. U.S.-listed shares of miner Rio Tinto Plc rose 1.6 percent to $73.58 in premarket trading.

The White House and Congress faced a midnight deadline to break a budget deadlock and avoid a government shutdown. Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 Democrat in the House, told NBC's Today program that negotiators were very close.

In Japan, dollar-denominated Nikkei futures advanced 2.9 percent. The country was hit by a strong aftershock on Thursday, though no damage was detected at the Fukushima Daiic5hi nuclear plant.

Data on February U.S. wholesale inventories will be released at 10 a.m., which are seen rising 1 percent.

Shares of Seagate Technology Plc climbed 8 percent to $15.86 in premarket trading on Friday, a day after it reinstated its dividend and said it expects its third-quarter revenue and margins to come in at the higher end of its previous guidance.

Stocks closed slightly lower on Thursday on concerns about the impact of Japan's earthquake, though a drop in initial jobless claims and some strong retail sales data prevented further losses.

(Editing by Kenneth Barry)

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