The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Consumer

July 19, 2012

US futures rising as earnings season progresses

NEW YORK — U.S. stock futures followed global markets higher as earnings from major corporations dispel fears of a sharp downturn in the economy.

While some financial companies are still struggling, including Morgan Stanley which posted a sizeable decline in revenue for its second quarter, airlines and tech companies are showing some strength despite the slow economic rebound. Other than Morgan Stanley, which saw shares tumble 4 percent in premarket trading, most financial sector stocks rose Thursday.

Dow Jones industrial average futures rose 50 points to 12,910. Standard & Poor's 500 futures added 6.2 points to 1,373.50 and Nasdaq futures have tacked on 17.75 points to 2,637.75.

Also on Thursday, the Labor Department said that weekly jobless claims rose by 34,000 to 386,000. That reverses a big decline driven by seasonal factors in the prior week. But economists believe the most recent numbers are something of a fluke because of a change in hiring practices this year by automakers. Automakers, responding to strong demand for new cars, did not shut down plants temporarily as they usually do around this time of year.

The less volatile four-week average for those seeking unemployment benefits fell by 1,500 to 375,500. When applications fall below 375,000, it typically suggests hiring is strong enough to pull the unemployment rate down. Applications had been trending near or above that level this spring.

Hiring is still a big factor in the sour perception of the economy for both businesses and households, however. Unemployment has hovered at 8.2 percent for two months now.

IBM is one of the companies that helped to alleviate fears on the hiring front, posting a 6 percent jump in profits late Wednesday. That bucked the trend in the tech industry and signaled to some that hiring in this environment is not inconceivable, if businesses are spending on new technology. Later Thursday, Google is expected to report rising net income and revenue, though industry watchers will be keying in on advertising spending a better gauge of the overall health of the sector.

The government is expected to report more positive data on the housing market Thursday, with an uptick in the sale of previously occupied homes.

Economists forecast that sales edged up 1.5 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.62 million units, according to a survey by FactSet. The report will be released at 10 a.m. Eastern time.

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