RTTNews - Following a mild uptick in the previous session, stocks are likely to open lower on Friday, as traders largely shrug off trade balance figures while awaiting July's reading on consumer sentiment. The major index futures are all in negative territory, with the Dow futures down 52 points.

The Commerce Department revealed that the trade deficit narrowed to $26.0 billion in May from $29.2 billion in April. The data surprised economists, who had expected the deficit to widen to $30.0 billion for the month.

A separate report from the Labor Department revealed that import prices rose 3.2 percent in June while export prices rose 1.1 percent. The jump in import prices was largely due to a substantial increase in the prices of petroleum imports.

Shortly after the opening bell on Wall Street, the Reuters/University of Michigan's preliminary reading of consumer sentiment for July is scheduled to be released. Analysts expect the consumer sentiment index to edge down to 70.0 in July from the final reading of 70.8 for June.

Meanwhile, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is set to testify before a joint hearing of House Financial Services and Agriculture Committees regarding derivatives regulation at 10 a.m. ET.

On the earnings front, Dow component Chevron (CVX) released its interim earnings update after the markets closed on Thursday, revealing that its U.S. refining margins for the second quarter fell sharply. The firm also said that it expects its downstream results for the quarter to be significantly lower than in the previous quarter.

After the markets closed on Thursday, engineering and construction company Shaw Group (SGR) stated that its third quarter profit plunged to $7.9 million or $0.09 per share, much lower than $52.0 million or $0.62 per share reported in the same period last year, hurt by foreign currency translation losses on Japanese Yen-denominated bonds. The company also lowered its earnings forecast for fiscal 2009.

According to media reports, beleaguered automaker General Motors Corp. (GMGMQ.PK) is set to emerge from a 38-day bankruptcy Friday as a new entity majority-owned by the U.S. government. The U.S. government will hold a 61 percent stake in the new company and the remaining shares will be held by a United Auto Workers union healthcare trust, the governments of Canada and Ontario, and GM's former unsecured bondholders.

Stocks saw choppy trading over the course of Thursday's session, finishing up by modest margins following some encouraging employment data. While the Dow bounced back and forth across the unchanged line going into the close, the blue chip index managed to end the session up by 4.76 points at 8,183. The Nasdaq rose by 5.38 points to 1,753 and the S&P 500 finished up by 3.12 points at 883.

Crude oil futures are moving notably lower in early commodities trading, sliding by $1.48 to $58.93 a barrel after ending the previous session up $0.27 at $60.41 a barrel. The price of gold is also falling, moving down by $7.20 to $909.0 an ounce.

On the currency front, the U.S. dollar is rising against the major European currencies, moving up to $1.3921 against the euro while climbing to $1.6197 versus the pound. Meanwhile, the dollar is lingering near its worst level in over four months against the yen, trading at 92.29 yen.

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region ended Friday's session mostly lower. Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 Index closed down by less than a tenth of a percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index slipped by 0.5 percent on the day.

The major European markets are also moving to the downside, with the German DAX Index and the French CAC 40 Index both down by 0.6 percent. The U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index is also falling, posting a loss of 0.7 percent.

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