Wall Street eyes early gains

By CNNMoney.com staff

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Stocks were poised for early gains Friday after struggling amid weakened investors sentiment and a stronger U.S. dollar.

The Dow Jones industrial average, Nasdaq-100 and S&P-500 futures were all higher. Futures measure current index values against their perceived future performance and offer an indication of how markets may open when trading begins.

Stocks finished lower Thursday after Greece received another credit downgrade and the dollar surged against the euro to its highest level since September. The greenback was also supported by the Federal Reserve's comments from the previous day, when the central bank left interest rates unchanged near zero and said economic weakness will persist.

Philip Isherwood, equities strategist at Evolution Strategies in London, said that Wall Street appeared to be headed for a modest rally, primarily on "an absence of bad news," with no significant market movers.

But trading could be volatile since Friday is also quadruple witching -- a day when stock index futures, stock index options, single stock futures and stock options all expire.

Isherwood added that the markets were "thinned out" and "pretty lifeless" ahead of the Christmas holiday, as many traders have closed their books for 2009.

"Most people have had their year, good and bad, and they're sitting on their hands," he said.

Companies. Oracle Corp. (ORCL, Fortune 500) reported a quarterly profit above Wall Street's expectations Thursday after the bell. Earnings per share of the world's second largest business software maker rose 39 cents, beating the forecast of 36 cents.

Nike (NIKE) reported its earnings fell to 76 cents in the second fiscal quarter from 80 cents per share a year earlier.

Research in Motion (RIM) posted a big jump in profit and boosted a stronger outlook. The Blackberry maker's earnings per share rose to $1.10 per share, from 69 cents a year earlier.

Pepsi (PEP, Fortune 500) announced late Thursday that it will not advertise in this season's Super Bowl. The beverage giant has advertised the past 23 years, and was among the top four advertiser's during last season's game.

World Markets. Stocks in Asia finished lower, while European indexes were gaining in midday trading.

Currency and commodities. The dollar was mixed against major international currencies, lower against the euro and the pound Friday, but higher versus the yen.

Crude oil for January delivery surged $1.43 to $74.08.

Gold for February delivery rose $2.20 to $1,109.  To top of page

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