Stock Futures Change Course, Turn Higher


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Stock futures changed course and ticked slightly higher as traders looked to extend a four-day rally and awaited a key report on consumer sentiment.

Today's Markets

As of 9:22 a.m. ET, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures rose 18 points to 11,392, S&P 500 futures gained 2 points to 1,206, and Nasdaq 100 futures slipped 0.25 point to 2,284.

The Dow has soared 441 points, or 4%, in the past four sessions, coming within 200 points of erasing steep losses from earlier in the month.  Much of this week's charge higher has been driven by hopes Europe will be able to stem its deepening sovereign debt crisis before it poses a risk to the global financial system.

A joint action by the European Central Bank and several other global central banks to provide the euro zone banking system with much-needed dollar liquidity in a time when banks have become more averse to lending was a crucial component in the blue chips' 186 point rally on Thursday.

Market participants are expected to pay close attention to a meeting among European Union policymakers in Poland on the day.  Also on the European front, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner met with EU officials early Friday to discuss using the bloc's $600 billion bailout fund to ease the crisis there, according to a report by Reuters.

Traders were also parsing through a slew of corporate headlines. Research in Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM) posted abysmal quarterly results after the closing bell on Thursday, missing profit and sales expectations by a wide margin as it struggled to find its way in an increasingly competitive smartphone market.  Shares of the BlackBerry maker nose dived 20% in earl trading.

Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) is also considering options for its Countrywide mortgage unit that it acquired in 2008 that is facing heavy losses and legal battles, according to a report by Bloomberg citing sources. One such option may be bankrupting the division to shield the country's biggest bank by assets from the losses, the report said, however, those plans were only in the early stages.  

A key report on consumer sentiment is on tap for 9:55 a.m. ET.  The Reuters/University of Michigan's preliminary gauge of consumer sentiment is expected to have increased slightly from late-August to September.  Consumers' make buying decisions partly based on their view of current conditions and speculation on what the future may hold, so consumer-driven shares like Tiffany (NYSE:TIF) tend to be the most directly affected by these data.

In recent months, sentiment has been pushed lower by the political gridlock in Washington and turmoil on Wall Street, reports have shown.

In currencies, the euro tumbled 0.63% against the U.S. dollar, while the greenback climbed 0.33% against a basket of world currencies.

Energy markets were mixed.  Light, sweet crude fell 44 cents, or 0.5%, to $88.95 a barrel.  Wholesale RBOB gasoline gained less than a penny to $2.79 a gallon.

Gold was under selling pressure in prior two sessions, shedding $48.30 a troy ounce, or 2.6%.  The precious metal recently gained $8.10, or 0.45%, to $1,790 a troy ounce.

The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note has risen considerably as traders have moved from safe havens back into equities.  The bond presently yields 2.085% from 2.079%.

Prices at the pump were downs slightly overnight.  A gallon of regular costs $3.61 on average nationwide down from $3.66 last month, but higher than the $2.73 drivers paid last year.

Foreign Markets

The English FTSE 100 jumped 1.1% to 2,179 and the German DAX climbed 1.2% to 5,575.

In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 soared 2.3% to 8,864 and the Chinese Hang Seng gained 1.4% to 19,455.