Stock Futures Climb as Traders Shrug Off GDP Miss

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U.S. stock index futures climbed modestly on Friday as traders remained confident about American corporations' profitability despite a bigger-than-expected deceleration in economic expansion.

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Today's Markets

As of 9:00 a.m. ET, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures gained 19 points to 13179, S&P 500 futures rose 3.4 points to 1400 and Nasdaq 100 futures climbed 12 points to 2733.

The annualized pace of expansion for the world's biggest economy came in at 2.2% in the first quarter of 2012, slower than the 3% registered in the final three months of last year, according to a preliminary reading by the Commerce Department. Economists were looking for an increase 2.5%. Consumer spending, housing investment and exports all picked up steam during the quarter. However, the gains were offset by the first drop in business investment since the last quarter of 2009, continued contraction in government spending and a pick up in imports.

"The US economy remains a bright light in the global economy, although the light is hardly blinding, and also showing some signs of fading," Chris Williamson, chief economist at Markit wrote in an e-mail. Williamson warned, however, that the weakness in business investment "serves as a reminder that business remain wary of expansion, given the uncertain economic outlook."

Later in the morning, the markets will get the Reuters/University of Michigan gauge of consumer sentiment, which is forecast to have held steady in late April. Consumers have been confronted with high energy prices and a stubbornly difficult labor market, yet outlook has remained strong so far this month.

On the European front, Standard & Poor's sliced Spain's long-term sovereign debt rating by two notches to BBB+ from A amid concerns over the country's ability to pay its debt while its economy struggles. Separately, the ratings agency affirmed Ireland's debt rating at BBB+, citing the government's "proactive" response to the financial crisis. S&P has a negative outlook on both countries.

In Asia, the Bank of Japan expanded its asset-buying program by 10 trillion yen ($124 billion) in a bid to keep long-term interest rates low and reinvigorate the country's economy. The country is also looking to push the value of its currency compared to others lower to help lift its exports.

On the earnings front, three blue-chip companies reported on the day.

Merck (NYSE:MRK) unveiled first-quarter earnings of 99 cents a share, excluding items, on revenue of $11.7 billion. Analysts expected the health-care behemoth to earn 98 cents on $11.82 billion.

Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG) posted an adjusted fiscal-third quarter EPS of 94 cents, topping forecasts by a penny. The consumer products company’s sales came in at $20.19 billion, shy of the $20.29 billion Wall Street expected.

Chevron (NYSE:CVX) posted a first-quarter profit of $3.27 a share, beating estimates by a penny. The blue-chip company’s total revenue came in at $60.71 billion, short of expectations of $72.42 billion.

Amazon.com's (NASDAQ:AMZN) results, released after the close on Thursday, handily beat expectations. The online retailer said it earned 28 cents a share on revenue of $13.18 billion, compared with estimates of 7 cents a share on revenue of $12.9 billion.

Energy futures were broadly lower. Crude oil traded in New York dipped 5 cents, or 0.05%, to $104.52 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline slipped 0.14% to $3.18 a gallon.

In metals, gold fell $3.20, or 0.19%, to $1,657 a troy ounce.

Foreign Markets

European blue chips rose 0.35%, the English FTSE 100 climbed 0.27% to 5764 and the German DAX gained 0.24% to 6756.

In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 dipped 0.43% to 9521 and the Chinese Hang Seng fell 0.33% to 20741.

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