Stock Futures Flip-Flop; Traders Focus on Greece, Earnings

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Stock-index futures were in search of direction on Friday as traders eyed key debt talks in Greece and mixed corporate earnings from several corporate titans.

Today's Markets

As of 9:20 a.m. ET, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures fell 16 points to 12570, S&P 500 futures dipped 3.3 points to 1307 and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 0.25 point to 2426.

The markets are sitting at their highest level since July, bolstered by unexpectedly strong economic data and generally positive corporate earnings. Two big-name companies, however, failed to impress with their fourth-quarter results.

General Electric (NYSE:GE), the U.S. conglomerate and Dow component, posted a per-share operating profit of 39 cents that topped expectations by a penny, but its $38 billion in revenue came in short of the $40 billion analysts forecast.

Search behemoth Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) missed Wall Street's view on the top and bottom lines when it unveiled its results after the closing bell on Thursday. The Mountain View-based company's shares plunged in extended trading.

Other technology majors fared considerably better: Intel (NASDAQ:INTC), IBM (NASDAQ:IBM) and Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) all topped profit expectations when they posted their results after the closing bell on Thursday. However, as has been a trend this earnings season, revenues were more mixed.

Market participants were also keeping a close eye on negotiations between the Greek government and private creditors that are in their third day. Part of the country's rescue package from the European Union hinges on private bondholders taking a loss, something that has been agreed to in principle. The talks are now focused on the technical side of the so-called bond swap deal, in which some holders of Greek debt will voluntarily accept new bonds with different maturities and coupon payments.

However, if the talks fall through, the country may be forced to either push for an involuntary arrangement or risk losing its much-needed bailout tranche. Either case could trigger default conditions on debt insurance or cause an actual default, both of which could slam Europe's banks and financial system, analysts have said. The country's next major debt payment is slated for March.

The euro slumped 0.39% to $1.2919 following a three-day winning streak. The greenback was recently up 0.33% against a basket of six world currencies.

Commodities were mixed on the day. The benchmark crude oil contract fell 43 cents, or 0.43%, to $99.96 a barrel. Oil prices have been weak over the past three sessions as traders have trimmed down expectations for the risk posed by terse relations between Iran and the U.S. over that Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf, Olivier Jakob, Managing Director at Swiss-based Petromatrix, wrote in a note to clients on Friday.

Wholesale RBOB gasoline rose 0.04% to $2.817 a gallon. In metals, gold dipped $1.30, or 0.08%, to $1,653 a troy ounce.

On the economic front, a report on existing home sales is on tap for 10:00 a.m. ET. Sales may have risen in December to an annualized pace of 4.7 million units from 4.4 million in November, economists said ahead of the release. The housing sector has struggled with high supplies, still tepid demand and tight conditions in lending markets.

Foreign Markets

European blue chips fell 0.54%, the English FTSE 100 slumped 0.11% to 5,735 and the German DAX fell 0.39% to 6,491.

In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 rallied 1.5% to 8,766 and the Chinese Hang Seng climbed 0.84% to 20,110.