The Day Ahead: Futures Mixed Ahead of Open

 | Feb 17, 2012 | 8:30 AM EST  | Comments
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Stock quotes in this article:

cpb

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hnz

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ntap

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gild

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AMAT

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jwn

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dell

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ftr

In the Headlines

NYSE futures indicated a higher open Friday, building on Thursday's big percentage gains, which came in lower volume. The Nasdaq, though, pointed to a slightly lower open.

Global traders are awaiting a Greek debt deal, possibly to be announced on Monday. European markets traded higher on fresh optimism about a bailout agreement.

The euro made gains Thursday as the possibility of a pact once again came to the forefront. It was up slightly vs. the dollar early Friday.

Asian stocks followed U.S. indices higher, with Japan's Nikkei ending Friday's session with a gain of 1.71%. The nation's exporters rose for yet another session, helped by the Bank of Japan's monetary easing earlier in the week. Other markets throughout the region finished with more modest gains.

Economic Docket

In the U.S., economic reports due out today include the Labor Department's January consumer price index. This is often viewed as an indicator of creeping inflation. Analysts see the headline number gaining 0.3%, with the core number rising 0.2%. The data are due out at 8:30 a.m. EST.

The Conference Board is set to release its leading indicators report at 10 a.m. Here, economists anticipate a January increase of 0.5%, up from December's gain of 0.4%.

Commodities Corner

Turning to commodities, West Texas Intermediate was up $0.50 per barrel, holding above the $100 level, at $102.81, on continued concerns about possible Israeli military action against Iran.

Gold advanced $3 ounce, to $1,731.40 in early Comex trade.

Earnings News

Corporate results slated for Friday include a second-quarter report from Campbell Soup (CPB). The company topped earnings views by $0.02, earning $0.64 a share. Revenue was a shade light, at $2.11 billion. Analysts had expected $2.12 billion. The stock has been a lackluster performer recently, and revenue growth rates have been erratic.

Fellow food company Heinz (HNZ) also reported before the bell. The ketchup maker earned $0.88 a share, topping views of $0.85 per share. Sales came in at $2.92 billion, ahead of expectations for $2.89 billion. Heinz shares have been consolidating just below their 10-week average in the past few weeks. The stock was up $1.11, or 2.13%, to $53.21 in early trade.

Premarket Movers

Other premarket movers Friday included NetApp (NTAP), which continued basking in the glow of a better-than-expected earnings report earlier this week. Shares of the network storage gear manufacturer climbed $1.51, or 3.53%, to $44.25 ahead of the bell.

Gilead Sciences (GILD) plunged $11.16, or 20.36%, to $43.65 in early trade. The company said a regimen of its experimental hepatitis C treatment failed to suppress the virus in patients who had seen no relief from other treatments.

Chip-gear maker Applied Materials (AMAT) rose $0.71 ahead of the open, or 5.37%, to $13.92. Late Thursday, the company beat first-quarter estimates, and reported strong demand from contract manufacturers.

Analyst Actions

In analyst actions, CLSA downgraded Nordstrom (JWN) was to Underperform from Buy, citing conservative guidance and higher investments into online sales.

RW Baird downgraded Dell (DELL) to Neutral from Outperform on valuation concerns. Dell has been trading at its best levels since September 2008.

Frontier Communications (FTR) was promoted to Neutral from Underperform at Macquarie. The analyst said improving free cash flow was among reasons for the upgrade. Shares of the Connecticut-based telecom were still down ahead of the open, shedding a penny, or 0.22%, to $4.45.

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