Stocks are continuing to show a lack of direction during early afternoon trading on Friday, having difficulty sustaining any significant moves. The uncertainty comes as investors mull over some corporate and economic news as they await remarks from Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke.

Fed Chairman Bernanke is scheduled to speak at a Fed conference in Washington at 12:30 PM ET today, discussing financial services for the underserved.

On the economic front, the Reuters/University of Michigan's consumer sentiment index for April rose to 61.9, a substantial increase from the previous reading. Analysts had expected the index to rise to 58.5 from 57.3 in March.

Meanwhile, in corporate news, General Electric (GE) reported first-quarter earnings from continuing operations of $0.26 per share, down 40 percent from $0.43 per share in the previous year. On average, analysts expected the company to report earnings of $0.21 per share.

Banking giant Citigroup (C) reported a first-quarter loss available to common shareholders that shrank significantly to $0.18 per share from $1.03 per share in the year ago quarter. Total revenues for the quarter soared 99 percent year-over-year to $24.79 billion. Analysts expected the company to report a loss of $0.34 per share on revenues of $21.94 billion.

In other corporate news, Google (GOOG) said its first quarter profit rose 8.4 percent from last year, helped by higher revenue and tight cost controls. The company's quarterly earnings per share, excluding items, came in above expectations, but its quarterly revenue fell short.

Meanwhile, General Motors (GM) CEO Fritz Henderson said it was more probable that the auto giant would need to seek bankruptcy protection in order to complete its restructuring process, although he noted that isn't the company's preferred option.

In other news, the New York Fed revealed that Brian Sack has been named executive vice president and head of the bank's Markets Group. Sack succeeds William Dudley, who was named president and chief executive officer of the New York Fed in January.

I am very pleased that Brian Sack will be joining the New York Fed as head of the Markets Group, Dudley said in a statement. He brings to the Bank a unique understanding of the interplay of economics and finance and has a combination of real world experience and public service that will be invaluable to the New York Fed.

The major averages are currently turning in a mixed performance, with the tech-heavy Nasdaq stuck firmly in negative territory. While the Nasdaq remains down 8.24 at 1,662.20, the Dow is up 7.41 at 8,132.84 and the S&P 500 is up 1.45 at 866.75.

Sector News

As was the case in the previous session, gold stocks are seeing considerable weakness amid a continued decrease by the price of the precious metal. With gold for June delivery falling $11.60 to $868.20 an ounce, the Amex Gold Bugs Index is down 4.1 percent.

Within the gold sector, Randgold Resources (GOLD) is showing one of the worst performances, with the gold miner currently down 6.5 percent. With the decline, the stock has fallen to its lowest level in almost three months.

Airline, health insurance, and software stocks are also posting considerable losses on the day, with the Amex Airline Index down 1.8 percent, while the Morgan Stanley Healthcare Payor Index and the Amex Software Index are suffering losses of 1.6 percent and 1.4 percent, respectively.

While trucking stocks are also showing notable declines, significant strength has emerged in the housing sector. The Philadelphia Housing Index is currently up 3.9 percent, rising to its best intraday level in early January.

Banking stocks have also turned higher over the course of the trading day, pushing the Kbw Bank Index up 3.2 percent after it fell as much as 2.4 percent earlier in the session. At its high for the session, the index was at a three-month intraday high.

Considerable strength also remains visible among brokerage, railroad, natural gas, and real estate stocks.

Stocks In The News

Cytec Industries Inc. (CYT) is suffering a significant 16.8 percent loss on the day after the company reported adjusted first quarter net income that plunged year-over-year and came in well below analyst estimates. With the decline, the stock has fallen from a recent two-month closing low and to its lowest level since mid-March.

Excluding items, Cytec's net income fell to $0.06 per share from $1.08 per share in the same quarter last year. On average, analysts expected the company to earn $0.29 per share.

Additionally, Media General Inc. (MEG) is down 13.5 percent following the release of first quarter results that included a much wider loss per share than analysts had anticipated.

Meanwhile, Mattel, Inc. (MAT) is showing a 12.7 percent advance after the company announced that while its quarterly loss was wider than analysts had anticipated, it came in line with what the toy maker had expected.

Other Markets

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region closed mostly higher on Friday, benefiting from the strength seen on Wall Street overnight. Nonetheless, some late-day profit taking limited the upside for the markets.

Meanwhile, the major European markets have come off their intraday highs but remain well above the unchanged line. The U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index is up 1 percent, while the French CAC 40 Index and the German DAX Index post gains of 1.8 percent and 1.5 percent, respectively.

In the bond market, treasuries have seen some further downside in recent trading, falling to new lows for the session. Subsequently, the yield on the benchmark 10-year note is up 8.5 basis points at 2.915 percent.

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