Futures Flat Despite Strong Trade Data

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Futures were little changed Friday despite better-than-expected trade data from the U.S. and China. Meanwhile, business as usual was expected on Wall Street as the Northeast braced for a major snowstorm.

Today's Markets

As of 8:36 a.m. ET, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures fell 11 points to 13887, S&P 500 futures dipped 0.25 point to 1505 and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 4.3 points to 2746.

The markets have had a mixed week, with the broad S&P 500 pointing to a weekly loss of 0.25%. The Dow has struggled more, falling 0.47% for the week. Still, the losses have barely cut into the big 2013 rally, with both market barometers up more than 5% for the year.

Global trade was in the spotlight Friday.

The U.S. trade deficit narrowed in December to $38.5 billion from $48.6 billion in November, marking the narrowest gap since January 2010. Economists were expecting the deficit to shrink to $46 billion. The figures will directly impact fourth-quarter gross domestic product readings, with a smaller deficit increasing the growth rate. The advance estimate showed a slight contraction for the quarter, partially due to a bigger-than-expected trade deficit.

"Trade data for December paint a reassuring and encouraging picture of the US economy at the end of last year, suggesting the economy did not fare as badly as the initial GDP estimate suggested in the fourth quarter," Markit Chief Economist Chris Williamson wrote in an email.

China posted a January trade surplus of $29.2 billion, easily topping expectations of $22 billion, as exports surged 25% and imports jumped 28.8%. The data fueled hopes that trade in the world's No. 2 economy -- a major exporter -- will remain robust despite a stodgy world economy.

"While Chinese New Year distortions are likely to have played a part, we think stronger domestic demand also contributed to the significant increase in imports," economists at Barclays wrote in a note to clients.

Still, Zhiwei Zhang, an economist at Nomura, notes the data also sparked worries about inflation that could push the People's Bank of China to focus on cooling prices instead of stimulating growth.

Germany, however, saw its December trade surplus of $16.1 billion come in short of the $20.1 billion in the latest sign even Europe's biggest economy isn't immune to the debt crisis.

'Business as Usual' on Wall Street

Meanwhile, Wall Street was prepared for a normal trading day even as a major snowstorm hurtled at the New York region. A NYSE Euronext (NYSE:NYX) spokesperson said "business as usual" is expected at the Big Board in lower Manhattan. As Hurricane Sandy, which pounded Manhattan, struck, NYSE was forced to scrap contingency plans to shift floor trading to an electronic platform after a revolt from major industry players.

The Nasdaq Stock Market, operated by Nasdaq OMX Group (NASDAQ:NDAQ), is a completely electronic platform and is generally not directly impacted by the weather.

In commodities, oil prices were in the green. The benchmark U.S. contract rose 17 cents, or 0.18%, to $96.01 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline rose 0.61% to $3.018 a gallon. Gold fell $1.70, or 0.1%, to $1,670 a toy ounce.

Foreign Markets

The Euro Stoxx 50 rose 0.49% to 2611, the English FTSE 100 climbed 0.45% to 6256 and the German DAX edged up 0.16% to 7603.

In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 sold off by 1.8% to 11153 and the Chinese Hang Seng ticked up by 0.16% to 23215.