After moving higher for much of the past week, stocks are likely to give back some ground in early trading on Friday. The futures are currently indicating a notably lower open for the markets, with the Dow futures currently down 64 points.
Profit taking is likely to contribute to any early weakness in the markets, with traders looking to cash in on the strong gains seen in recent sessions. Nonetheless, the major averages still seem likely to close higher for the third consecutive week.
On the economic front, the Commerce Department released its report on personal income and spending in the month of February. While the report showed an increase in spending that came in line with estimates, income fell by a little more than expected.
The report showed that personal spending rose 0.2 percent in February following an upwardly revised 1.0 percent increase in January. The modest increase in spending came in line with the expectations of economists.
At the same time, the Commerce Department said that personal income edged down 0.2 in February after a downwardly revised 0.2 percent increase in the previous month. Economists had been expecting a slightly more modest 0.1 percent decrease.
The final reading of the Reuters/University of Michigan's consumer sentiment index for March is due to be released at about 10 am ET. Economists expect the consumer sentiment index to be revised up to 56.8 from the mid-month reading of 56.6.
In other news, President Barack Obama is meeting today with the CEOs of JP Morgan (JPM), Citigroup (C), Goldman Sachs (GS) and other banks, as well as executives from industry associations, to discuss the economy and the administration's proposals to increase regulation of the financial system.
Additionally, President Obama will also soon unveil the results of a federal examination of restructuring plans put forward by General Motors (GM) and Chrysler as a condition of financial aid to the struggling companies.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said the details would be announced before the President departs for the G20 Summit in London on Tuesday.
The President, as part of viability plans from both GM and Chrysler, is required by the 31st to give an update on those plans and where our government sees them, and we'll be doing that also in the next few days, Gibbs said.
Gibbs also reiterated the President's comments made during an online town hall meeting that the global auto industry is facing difficult times, but that was no excuse for not reforming the companies in a more fundamental way.
In related news, the Wall Street Journal reported that GM is unlikely to meet a March 31 deadline to gain concessions from its main union and bondholders. However, officials of the president's auto task force are reportedly agreeable to extending the deadline by another 30 days.
After trending higher in recent sessions, stocks saw some further upside over the course of the trading day on Thursday. The major averages all moved firmly into positive territory, ending the session at their best closing levels in over a month.
While the Dow rose nearly 175 points on the day, the tech-heavy Nasdaq ended the session up nearly 60 points to climb above the unchanged line for the year.
Crude oil futures are trading down $1.23 at $53.11 a barrel after advancing $1.57 to $54.34 a barrel in Thursday's session. Gold futures, which rose $4.20 to $942.20 an ounce in the previous session, are currently receding $17.80 to $924.40 an ounce.
On the currency front, the U.S. dollar is trading at 97.708 yen compared to the 98.7218 yen at the close of New York trading on Thursday. Against the euro, the dollar is currently trading at $1.3332.
In overseas trading, the stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region turned in a mixed performance on Friday. While Japan's Nikkei 225 Index edged down 0.1 percent, Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index ended the day up 0.1 percent.
Meanwhile, the major European markets are all moving lower, with the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index currently down 0.3 percent, while the French CAC 40 Index and the German DAX Index are both falling 1 percent.
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