Stocks on track for big quarterly win

@CNNMoneyInvest March 30, 2012: 8:41 AM ET
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NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- U.S. stocks were headed for a slightly higher open Friday, the final trading day of a strong quarter, as investors hope for some positive economic reports after a disappointing stretch of data.

While worries about a growth slowdown have kept investors sidelined lately, it's been a stellar three months for stocks, with all three major U.S. indexes on track to log solid gains. The Dow is up almost 8%, the S&P 500 is up nearly 12% and the Nasdaq has gained a whopping 19% since New Year's Day.

Each index is within striking distance of milestone levels. The Nasdaq logged its best close since 2000 earlier this week and remains near that mark. In addition, the S&P 500 and Dow are close to setting fresh multi-year highs.

Ahead of Friday's opening bell, the Dow Jones industrial average (INDU), S&P 500 (SPX) and Nasdaq (COMP) futures were all up about 0.4%. Stock futures indicate the possible direction of the markets when they open at 9:30 a.m. ET.

The week has been filled with a string of lackluster numbers on durable goods, home prices and the labor market. Ongoing concerns about a growth slowdown in China have added pressure to world markets.

New reports are due Friday on consumer spending and income, manufacturing, and consumer confidence.

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U.S. stocks bounced around Thursday before ending little changed. Both the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq closed in the red for the third straight day, while the Dow broke a two-day losing streak.

Economy: A report released before the opening bell showed that personal spending increased 0.8% in February, topping analyst predictions of a 0.6% jump.

Meanwhile, personal income grew by 0.2%, less than the 0.3% predicted rate.

The Chicago Purchasing Managers' Index for March is expected to stand at 63, down from 64 in February. Any reading above 50 indicates expansion. The March edition of the University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index is projected to come in at 74.3, flat versus February.

Companies: Shares of Apple (AAPL, Fortune 500) were slightly lower in premarket trading, a day after a heavily anticipated report on working conditions at supplier Foxconn's China facilities was released. The report documents dozens of major labor-rights violations, including excessive overtime, unpaid wages and salaries that aren't enough to cover basic living expenses.

On Friday, retailer Finish Line (FINL) said it earned 81 cents per share last quarter -- a number in line with analyst estimates. The company reported better-than-expected revenue of $456 million.

Research in Motion (RIMM) shares were off slightly in premarket trading after the BlackBerry-maker missed expectations on revenues and earnings. The company said it's considering strategic alternatives, and one director left its board.

World markets: European stocks were higher in afternoon trading. Britain's FTSE 100 (UKX) increased 0.6%, the DAX (DAX) in Germany rose 1.1% and France's CAC 40 (CAC40) jumped 1.4%.

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Asian markets ended mixed. The Shanghai Composite (SHCOMP) added 0.5%, while the Hang Seng (HSI) in Hong Kong and Japan's Nikkei (N225) dropped 0.3%.

Currencies and commodities: The dollar lost ground against the euro, the British pound and the Japanese yen.

Oil for May delivery added 55 cents to $103.32 a barrel.

Gold futures for April delivery rose $13.80 to $1,666 an ounce.

Bonds: The price on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury dropped, pushing the yield up to 2.17% from 2.16% late Thursday.  To top of page

Index Last Change % Change
Dow 17,055.87 -116.81 -0.68%
Nasdaq 4,508.69 -19.00 -0.42%
S&P 500 1,982.77 -11.52 -0.58%
Treasuries 2.54 -0.03 -1.21%
Data as of 12:30am ET
Company Price Change % Change
Bank of America Corp... 17.05 0.02 0.12%
Yahoo! Inc 39.05 0.40 1.03%
Apple Inc 102.64 1.58 1.56%
Facebook Inc 78.29 1.49 1.94%
Oracle Corp 38.83 -0.75 -1.89%
Data as of Sep 23
Overnight Avg Rate Latest Change Last Week
30 yr fixed4.18%4.20%
15 yr fixed3.21%3.27%
5/1 ARM3.32%3.53%
30 yr refi4.17%4.18%
15 yr refi3.21%3.26%
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