Stock Futures Climb After GE Beats the Street

Stock futures were pointing to a firmer start for Wall Street on Friday with some optimism ahead of earnings from General Electric Co., in a week that has had some ups and down for major markets. Data later could show cooling housing starts and industrial production.

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 46 points, or 0.3%, to 16370, while those for the S&P 500 rose 5.5 points, or 0.3%, to 1841.70. Futures for the Nasdaq-100 rose 11.75 points to 3607.

General Electric (GE) is due to report before the bell, with analysts polled by FactSet forecasting the company to earn 53 cents a share on revenue of $40.27 billion in the fourth quarter. The company often mirrors the broader economy, which did well in the last few months of the year, and that has lifted Wall Street's expectations for those results.

Wrapping up another earnings season for the biggest banks, Morgan Stanley (MS) is also due to report early, with analysts projecting the company to reported adjusted per-share earnings of 44 cents, down slightly from a year ago, on revenue of $8.02 billion in the fourth quarter, up slightly from a year ago. What to look for in Morgan Stanley's earnings

On the data front, investors will be looking to see how much of an impact cold weather has had on construction of new homes in December. Economists are forecasting that housing starts reached a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 985,000 in December, slightly pulling back after a surge in November to 1.09 million. The data is due at 8:30 a.m. EST.

Industrial production is due at 9:15 a.m. EST and is forecast to slow to 0.3% growth from 1.1% in November.

At nearly 10 a.m. EST, the University of Michigan/Thomson Reuters consumer sentiment index for January is scheduled for release. It is seen rising to 84 from 82.5, with economists forecasting sentiment will grind higher along with improved economic data.

Richmond Federal Reserve President Jeffrey Lacker is due to speak at 12:30 p.m. EST.

Wall Street was set to end the week largely unchanged, outside of a roughly 1% gain for the Nasdaq Composite Index. Stocks finished lower on Thursday after downbeat news from Best Buy Co. (BBY) and a couple of big banks. The S&P 500 lost 2.5 points, or 0.1%, to end at 1845.89, retreating from its record closing level reached on Wednesday.

Among other stocks in focus on Friday, shares of Intel Corp. (INTC) could fall in premarket after the chipmaker posted a rise in profit, but gave disappointing revenue guidance for 2014. Shares fell in late trade on Thursday.

Capital One Financial Corp. (COF) could see some pressure after posting a rise in profit, but a fall in revenue, which weighed on those shares in late trade.

Shares of Yahoo Inc. (YHOO) could attract attention after a report on technology news site Re/code that the company has apparently lost its editor-in-chief, Jai Singh. The move comes shortly after the exit of Henrique De Castro from the role of chief operating officer.

In overseas markets, European stocks were set to make strong weekly gains, while the week ended on a mixed note for Asian markets. Gold prices were largely flat and oil firmed, while the dollar was edging south.