Futures rise, focus on North Korea and Europe
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange December 13, 2011. Reuters

U.S. stock index futures point to a higher open Friday ahead of the Census Bureau's new home sales data.

The futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average were up 0.22 percent, the futures on the Standard & Poor's 500 Index rose 0.18 percent and those on the Nasdaq 100 Index gained 0.31 percent.

Investors are expected to focus on December new home sales data to be reported after the markets open Friday. The new home sales data, measuring the annualized number of new single family homes that were sold during the previous month are expected to rise to 385,000 from 377,000 in November.

Also, investors will continue to focus on earnings reports, with Procter & Gamble Co. (NYSE:PG), Kimberly Clark Corp. (NYSE:KMB), Halliburton Co. (NYSE:HAL) and Honeywell International Inc. (NYSE:HON) expected to announce their quarterly results Friday.

On the corporate front, shares of Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T) remain in focus after the companies reported their quarterly earnings late Thursday.

Microsoft reported that its second quarter net income declined to $6.38 billion or $0.76 per share from $6.62 billion or $0.78 per share in the same period last year. Adjusted net profit was $0.81 per share and also topped Reuters’ estimation of $0.75 per share. Quarterly revenues rose 3 percent to $21.46 billion from $20.89 billion last year.

AT&T’s fourth quarter net loss narrowed to $3.86 billion or $0.68 per share from $6.68 billion or $1.12 per share in the same period last year. Leaving out charges such as pension costs, adjusted net profit was $0.44 a share, in comparison to $0.40 reported in the same period last year, but slightly lower than analysts’ estimation of $0.46 per share.

On Thursday, U.S. markets closed mixed with Apple shares weighing down Nasdaq, and investors focusing on the corporate results and economic data. Nasdaq closed at 3,130.38 down by 23.29 points or 0.74 percent, S&P closed flat at 1,494.82 and Dow Jones closed at 13,825.33 up by 46 points or 0.33 percent.

The Asian markets appeared mixed Friday as they remained cautious ahead of the corporate earnings season. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was down 0.08 percent, China's Shangai declined 0.49 percent, while Japan’s Nikkei was up 2.88 percent and India's Sensex gained 0.95 percent.

European shares traded higher Friday with shares in Germany leading the region. Germany’s DAX was up 0.91 percent, while France's CAC 40 rose 0.32 percent and London's FTSE 100 gained 0.11 percent.