US stocks advanced slightly in early trade on Friday after government data showed that US economic activity grew at a 3.2 percent annual rate in the fourth quarter.
The S&P 500 Index gained 0.79 points, or 0.06 percent, to trade at 1,300.48 at 9:45 a.m. EDT. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 6.05 points, or 0.05 percent, to trade at 11,995.88. The Nasdaq Composite Index advanced 0.01 percent.
The Commerce Department reported that real Gross Domestic Product, the broadest measure of economic activity, rose at an annual rate of 3.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2010 against analysts’ estimation of 3.5 percent, mainly driven by the biggest gain in consumer spending in more than four years and rising exports. In the third quarter, the economy grew at a 2.6 percent annual rate.
Consumer spending, which accounts about 70 percent of demand in the U.S. economy, rose 4.4 percent in the fourth quarter, boosted by 21.6 percent increase in spending on durable goods. Exports of goods and services rose 8.5 percent in Oct-Dec period last year, following a 6.8 percent in the previous quarter.
On the corporate front, shares of Ford Motor Co. (NYSE:F) slumped 6.76 percent as its fourth quarter net income fell to $190 million or $0.05 per share, from $886 million or $0.25 per share in the same period a year-ago.
Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN) shares plunged 6.83 percent to $169.03 in pre-market trading session. Its fourth quarter profit was $416 million or 91 cents a share, up from $384 million or 85 cents a share last year. Sales rose 36 percent to $12.95 billion. Analysts had expected profit of 88 cents a share on revenue of $12.98 billion.
Sara Lee Corp. (NYSE:SLE) shares declined 1.30 percent after the company announced that it will split the business into two parts by separating the Coffee and Meat businesses to market their product and find their actual and potential consumers.
The euro declined 0.33 percent to 1.3689 against the dollar and the yen gained 0.63 percent against the greenback.
Crude oil futures advanced 0.51 percent to $86.08/barrel and gold futures declined 0.52 percent.
European stock markets are currently trading mixed with FTSE 100 down by 50.28 points, DAX30 up by 9.87 points and CAC 40 up by 1.78 points.