Stock futures are pointing to a modestly higher open on Friday as investors respond to some big name earnings releases and a report on durable goods orders for the month of March. Some investors are also likely to stay on the sidelines awaiting the results of the government's stress tests of the major banks.
Auto-making giant Ford (F) reported quarterly results that came in better than analysts had anticipated. For the first quarter, the company reported an after-tax net loss of $1.8 billion, or $0.75 per share, compared to a profit of $477 million, or $0.20 per share, a year ago.
On average, analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected the company to report a loss of $1.23 per share for the quarter. While the loss continues to indicate weakness in the auto sector, the substantially better-than-expected result shows that improvements are being made at Ford.
Additionally, Microsoft (MSFT) is on the rise during pre-market trading as the software giant's third quarter earnings came in line with expectations excluding some special charges.
The software company reported third quarter net income of $0.33 per share, compared to $0.47 per share in the same period last year. On average, analysts expected the company to report earnings of $0.39 per share.
The financial results for the third quarter included $290 million of severance charges related to the previously announced plan to reduce up to 5,000 positions and $420 million of impairments to investments. Combined, the two charges reduced earnings per share by $0.06.
In economic news, new orders for durable goods fell by less than expected in the month of March, according to a report released by the Commerce Department, although the report also showed a notable downward revision to the growth seen in February.
The report showed that durable goods orders fell 0.8 percent in March following a downwardly revised 2.1 percent increase in February. Economists had expected orders to fall 1.5 percent compared to the 3.5 percent increase that had been reported for the previous month.
Excluding the transportation sector, durable goods orders fell 0.6 percent, compared to the 1.3 percent decline expected by economists.
The Commerce Department is due to release its report on new home sales in the month of March at 10 am ET. Following a 4.7 percent increase in February, economists expect new home sales to come in unchanged at an annual rate of 337,000.
After showing considerable uncertainty throughout a great deal of Thursday's trading session, stocks ultimately ended the day mostly higher. The uncertainty followed a combination of some mixed corporate news and some disappointing economic reports.
With traders showing some reluctance to make any significant moves, the major averages moved back and forth across the unchanged line before showing a notable upward move going into the close. The Dow eventually ended the session up about 70 points.
Crude oil futures are rising $0.83 to $50.45 a barrel. On Thursday, the commodity rose $0.77 to $49.62 a barrel. Meanwhile, gold futures are trading up $2.60 at $909.20 an ounce after surging up $14.10 to $906.60 an ounce in the previous session.
On the currency front, the U.S. dollar is trading at 97.033 yen compared to the 97.97 yen it fetched at the close of New York trading on Thursday. Against the euro, the dollar is trading at $1.3217.
In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific regions closed mostly lower on Friday, with Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 Index closing down 1.6. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index bucked the downtrend, however, edging up 0.3 percent.
Meanwhile, the major European markets are all moving notably higher, with the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index and the German DAX Index both currently up 2.2 percent, while the French CAC 40 Index is advancing 2.0 percent.
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