Stock Futures Green Ahead of Housing Data

U.S. stocks were on track for a weekly gain Friday, with stock futures indicating a higher open on Wall Street ahead of fresh data on the housing market, which has suffered from the unusually cold winter.

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 39 points, or 0.2%, to 16,139, while those for the S&P 500 index added 4 points, or 0.2%, to 1,840.20. Futures for the Nasdaq 100 index advanced 7 points, or 0.2%, to 3,678.50.

All three benchmarks were heading for weekly advances after volatile trading and mixed economic data. On Thursday, U.S. stocks closed higher, as traders found encouragement in data showing U.S. manufacturing activity jumped to its highest level in almost four years, but largely ignored downbeat reports from the Philadelphia Federal Reserve, China and Europe.

More data out Friday could stir the markets. Readings on existing-home sales are likely to show a pullback in January, when they are released at 10 a.m. EST. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch expect an annual rate of 4.65 million on a seasonally adjusted basis, down from a preliminary reading of 4.87 million in December.

Earlier in the week, data showed construction on new U.S. homes tumbled 16% in January, while sentiment among home builders plunged in February. The weakening in the housing market was partly explained by the exceptionally cold weather in parts of the U.S. this winter, but some analysts pointed to an underlying slowdown in the housing market.

In corporate news, shares of Groupon Inc. slid 14% after the online-voucher company late Thursday reported a fourth-quarter loss of $81.2 million, or 12 cents a share, compared with a loss of $81.1 million, or 12 cents a share, a year ago.

Hewlett-Packard Co. could also be active after the computer maker Thursday said its fiscal first-quarter profit edged up to $1.43 billion, or 74 cents a share, from $1.41 billion, or 73 cents a share, a year ago.

On Friday, Dish Network Corp. is expected to report fourth-quarter earnings of 40 cents a share. Charter Communications Inc. is also slated to report quarterly results. Analysts project the cable, TV and satellite company to post fourth-quarter earnings of 26 cents a share.

Two Federal Reserve speakers were also on tap around lunchtime on Friday. At 12:45 p.m. EST, Richard Fisher, President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, will speak at McCombs School of Business. After that, St. Louis Fed President James Bullard will discuss the U.S. economy and monetary policy at 1:10 p.m. Eastern Time at the St. Louis Forum Luncheon. Fisher is a voting member of the Fed's policy committee this year.

In other financial markets, European stock markets traded higher, following a mostly upbeat session in Asia. Metals prices were mixed, while oil prices suffered as the dollar strengthened.