US Stock Futures Signal Higher Open On Friday Ahead of University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Report

  on May 17 2013 4:06 AM

U.S. stock index futures point to a higher open on Friday ahead of the publication of the University of Michigan consumer confidence report.

Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average were up 0.26 percent, the futures on the Standard & Poor's 500 Index were up 0.10 percent and those on the Nasdaq 100 Index were up 0.16 percent.

Investors are expected to focus on the consumer sentiment report, which is due to be released at 9:55 a.m. ET on Friday. The preliminary index for May, which shows what consumers in the U.S. think of the nation's business climate and economic conditions, is expected to rise to 78.0 from 76.4 in April, according to a Reuters survey of economists.

“Equity market performance remains strong with both the Dow and the S&P 500 continuing to move around record highs. At the same time, gasoline prices have eased. Together, these factors should be supportive for overall consumer sentiment,” a note from Credit Agricole said.

On the corporate front, shares of J.C. Penney Co Inc. (NYSE:JCP) and Dell Inc (NASDAQ:DELL) will be in focus after their quarterly earnings were reported on late Thursday.

J.C. Penney reported that its first-quarter net loss widened to $348 million or $1.58 per share from $163 million or $0.75 per share in the same quarter, last year. Adjusted loss was $1.31 per share in comparison to $0.25 per share in the same period last year and also came in worse than analysts' forecast of a loss of $0.86 per share.

Dell reported a first-quarter net profit of $130 million or $0.07 per share, sharply lower in comparison to $635 million or $0.36 per share in the same period last year. Adjusted profit was $372 million or $0.21 per share, below Reuters' estimate of $0.35 per share.

U.S. stock markets declined Thursday, with the Standard & Poor's 500 Index ending a four-session winning streak, as sentiment was weighed down by weaker-than-expected economic data and concerns that the Federal Reserve will begin to reduce the pace of its $85 billion monthly bond-buying as soon as this summer. The Dow Jones Industrial Average declined 0.28 percent, the S&P 500 Index was down 0.50 percent and the Nasdaq Composite Index declined 0.18 percent.

The data released on Thursday by the U.S. Department of Labor showed that initial claims for unemployment benefits rose more than forecast last week to above 360,000 levels, while the Consumer Price Index (CPI) retreated to 1.1 percent on an annual basis in April from 1.5 percent in the prior month and further moved away from the Fed’s 2 percent inflation goal.

Meanwhile, data released by the U.S. Census Bureau showed that housing starts, which measure the change in the annualized number of residential buildings that began construction each month, plunged 16.5 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 853,000 units in April, the lowest level since November.

European stock markets were trading lower on Friday with the FTSE 100 down 0.16 percent, Germany's DAX-30 losing 0.24 percent and France's CAC-40 declining 0.30 percent.

Asian stock markets mostly advanced on Friday after data showed that Japan's core machinery orders posted a better-than-expected rise in March. Japan’s Nikkei gained 0.67 percent, Chinese Shanghai Composite surged 1.38 percent while India’s BSE Sensex slipped 0.18 percent. Markets in Hong Kong and South Korea were closed for holidays.

According to data released by Japan's Cabinet Office on Friday, core machinery orders, which measure the change in the total value of new orders placed with machine manufacturers, excluding ships and utilities, increased by 14.2 percent in March following a 4.2 percent gain in February. March’s gain was significantly better than the market consensus of 3.5 percent monthly gain.

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