Stocks: Investors step back

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Investors appeared to be taking a step back early Friday amid signs of a rebound in China's economy and ahead of more corporate earnings.

U.S. stock futures were little changed.

Asian stocks rallied after China posted stronger-than-expected growth figures, showing its economy expanded at a 7.9% annual rate in the final three months of 2012. The Nikkei surged nearly 3%, helped by a weaker yen.

European markets were mixed in afternoon trading.

Investors are still focused on earnings. Shares of General Electric (GE) rose more than 3% after the conglomerate issued an upbeat outlook and reported better-than-expected earnings and revenue ahead of the opening bell.

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Schlumberger (SLB), a major oilfield services provider, reported profit that beat analysts' estimates. Shares ticked up slightly.

Morgan Stanley (MS) shares rose 6% after the bank reported earnings that narrowly beat expectations.

It's been a mixed bag for earnings this week, with most of the big banks reporting. JPMorgan Chase (JPM) and Goldman Sachs (GS) issued strong reports, while investors were disappointed by Citigroup (C)and Bank of America (BAC).

Intel (INTC) shares sank 6% in premarket trading Friday, a day after after the chipmaker reported that quarterly profit fell 27% from a year earlier.

Capital One (COF) shares fell 7% in premarket trading, following the financial firm's earnings report, which fell short of forecasts.

AT&T (T) shares were down 1% in premarket trading following the company's announcement that it will take a charge of $10 billion in the fourth quarter related to its pension plan.

Overall, S&P 500 companies are expected to report earnings growth of 3.8% for the last three months of 2012, according to S&P's Capital IQ.

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Investors will also be monitoring the ongoing troubles at Boeing (BA), which has been in focus this week due to problems with its new 787 Dreamliners that have prompted authorities around the planet to ground the planes.

In economic news, the University of Michigan will release its consumer sentiment index at 10 a.m. ET.

U.S. stocks rallied Thursday, with the S&P 500 hitting a 5-year high and the Dow closing near one, as upbeat reports on the economy offset mixed corporate results.

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