Stocks: Eyes on the economy

@CNNMoneyInvest February 24, 2012: 8:39 AM ET
u.s. stock futures, premarket

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NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- U.S. stocks were set for a higher open Friday, tracking gains in global stock markets, as investors awaited another round of economic data and corporate results.

The Dow Jones industrial average (INDU), S&P 500 (SPX) and Nasdaq (COMP) futures rose betwen 0.2% and 0.3% ahead of the opening bell. Stock futures indicate the possible direction of the markets when they open at 9:30 a.m. ET.

Economic reports on tap for Friday include consumer sentiment and new-home sales, where investors hope for continued signs of momentum in the U.S. economy.

While a number of economic indicators have looked positive lately, the housing market remains a troubled sector.

The National Association of Realtors reported Wednesday that home prices fell to their lowest point in more than a decade in January. But on Thursday, the 30-year fixed mortgage rate rose off its all-time lows -- giving the housing sector a slight vote of confidence.

U.S. stocks closed higher Thursday despite looming worries about the Greek debt crisis, boosted by a strong report on Germany's economy and a decent reading on U.S. unemployment.

Money market funds dip back into eurozone debt

World markets: European stocks were higher in afternoon trading. Britain's FTSE 100 (UKX) edged up slightly, the DAX (DAX) in Germany rose 0.4% and France's CAC 40 (CAC40) added 0.4%.

Asian markets ended with solid gains. The Shanghai Composite (SHCOMP) closed up 1.3%, the Hang Seng (HSI) in Hong Kong rose 0.1% and Japan's Nikkei (N225) gained 0.5%.

Economy: Analysts surveyed by expect the annual rate of new-home sales for January to increase to 315,000, from December's 307,000.

February's installment of the University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index is expected to come in at 73.0, up from 72.5 in the month prior.

Investors will also be listening for any notable remarks from regional Federal Reserve bank heads during the 2012 U.S. Monetary Policy Forum in New York.

Companies: J.C. Penney (JCP, Fortune 500) shares slipped after the department store chain beat earnings estimates but fell short of sales expectations for the fourth quarter.

Shares of AIG (AIG, Fortune 500) jumped after the company said late Thursday that its fourth-quarter profit surged more than $19.8 billion, thanks to an accounting change.'s (CRM) stock also popped after the company topped earnings and sales expectations late Thursday, as customer billings surged 57% during the quarter -- a sign of robust future sales growth.

Shares of Crocs (CROX) tumbled after the shoemaker issued a downbeat outlook for the first quarter of 2012.

Gap's (GPS, Fortune 500) stock fell after the retailer missed earnings and sales expectations for the fourth quarter. Gap also announced a $1 billion share buyback program and an 11% boost to its annual dividend.

Gingrich's $2.50 gas promise

Citigroup (C, Fortune 500) sold its stake in Mumbai-based Housing Development Finance Corporation. Citigroup said the sale should result in a pre-tax gain of $1.1 billion, and an after-tax gain of approximately $722 million.

Bank of America (BAC, Fortune 500) announced plans late Thursday to freeze pension plans, effective in July, and increase its 401(k) contributions instead.

Procter & Gamble (PG, Fortune 500) said Thursday that it will cut 5,700 positions globally by June of next year.

Currencies and commodities: The dollar fell against the euro and the British pound, but rose versus the Japanese yen.

Oil for April delivery rose 52 cents to $108.35 a barrel.

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The price of regular unleaded gasoline jumped 3.5 cents overnight to $3.647 a gallon, according to motorist group AAA.

Gold futures for April delivery fell $5.80 to $1,780.50 an ounce.

Bonds: The price on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury fell, pushing the yield up to 2% from 1.98% late Thursday.  To top of page

Index Last Change % Change
Dow 24,580.89 119.19 0.49%
Nasdaq 7,692.82 -20.14 -0.26%
S&P 500 2,754.88 5.12 0.19%
Treasuries 2.90 0.00 0.10%
Data as of 1:40pm ET
Company Price Change % Change
Comcast Corp 33.81 1.02 3.11%
Bank of America Corp... 28.99 -0.30 -1.02%
General Electric Co 13.05 0.29 2.27%
AT&T Inc 31.69 0.09 0.28%
Micron Technology In... 57.10 -2.34 -3.94%
Data as of Jun 22
Overnight Avg Rate Latest Change Last Week
30 yr fixed4.45%4.43%
15 yr fixed3.89%3.89%
5/1 ARM4.17%4.22%
30 yr refi4.44%4.43%
15 yr refi3.87%3.87%
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