After moving sharply higher over the course of the previous sessions, stocks may show a lack of direction in early trading on Friday, with the major index futures currently indicating a mixed open following the release of some significant corporate news.
Some traders may stay on the sidelines ahead of a speech from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. At 12:30 PM ET today, Bernanke is scheduled to speak at a Fed conference in Washington about financial services for the underserved.
Earlier, diversified conglomerate General Electric (GE) reported first-quarter net earnings attributable to the company of $2.81 billion, compared to $4.3 billion last year. Earnings from continuing operations were $2.8 billion, down 35 percent from $4.4 billion in the same quarter a year earlier.
Earnings per share from continuing operations were $0.26, down 40 percent from $0.43 in the previous year, while net earnings attributable to GE common shareholders fell to $2.74 billion from $4.3 billion in the year-ago quarter. On average, analysts expected the company to report earnings of $0.21 per share.
Meanwhile, Citigroup reported a first-quarter loss available to common shareholders that narrowed to $966 million, or $0.18 per share, from $5.19 billion, or $1.03 per share, in the year ago quarter.
The company said the loss reflected the reset in January 2009 of the conversion price of the $12.5 billion convertible preferred stock issued in a private offering in January 2008. The loss per share also reflected preferred stock dividends, which did not impact net income but reduced income available to common shareholders by $1.3 billion.
Total revenues for the quarter were $24.79 billion, up 99 percent from $12.44 billion in the year ago quarter. Analysts expected the company to report a loss of $0.34 per share on revenues of $21.94 billion for the quarter.
In other corporate news, Google (GOOG) said that 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 of what analysts anticipated.
Meanwhile, General Motors (GM) is coming under pressure from the U.S. government to consider ousting its GMC brand, the Wall Street Journal reported. The report specified that GMC's future is being discussed this week amid meetings of GM and auto task force officials.
General Motors President and Chief Executive Officer Fritz Henderson will be updating the media and financial analysts on company's restructuring activities at 10:15 a.m. ET.
Additionally, not long after the open, trading could be impacted by the release of the Reuters/University of Michigan's consumer sentiment index for April. The index is expected to rise to 58.5 from 57.3 in March.
Stocks moved sharply higher over the course of the trading session on Thursday, with the major averages all closing firmly in positive territory after seeing some earlier uncertainty. As was the case in the previous session, a late day rally contributed to the higher close.
While the tech-heavy Nasdaq remained firmly in positive territory throughout the session, the Dow bounced back and forth across the unchanged line before surging higher in the latter part of the trading day. The Dow eventually ended the session up nearly 100 points.
With the gains, the Dow and the S&P 500 ended the session at their best closing levels in over two months, while the Nasdaq finished the day at its best closing level since early November of 2008.
Crude oil futures are edging up $0.08 to $50.06 a barrel after advancing $0.73 to $49.98 a barrel in Thursday's session. Gold futures, which fell $13.70 to $879.80 an ounce yesterday, are currently slipping an additional $7.90 to $871.90 an ounce.
On the currency front, the U.S. dollar is trading at 99.29 yen compared to the 99.28 yen it was worth at the close of New York trading on Thursday. The dollar is currently valued at $1.3058 versus the euro.
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.
The major European markets are showing notable upward moves, with the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index currently up 1.2 percent, while the French CAC 40 Index and the German DAX Index are advancing 1.4 percent and 1.3 percent, respectively.
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