LONDON -- Stock index futures at 7 a.m. EST indicate that the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) may open 0.33% higher this morning, while the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) may open up by 0.35%. The S&P has closed higher for seven consecutive days, while the Dow Jones is within 300 points of its all-time high and is up 5.5% so far this year.
With all eyes focused on stocks, today looks likely to be another quiet day on the economic-data front. Weekly U.S. export data is due at 8:30 a.m. EST, followed at 10 a.m. EST by December's new home sales, which are expected to show a 2.1% gain after rising 4.4% in November.
It's another big day for earnings, and forest products company Weyerhaeuser started the day with above-expectation fourth-quarter earnings of $0.26 per share, beating the consensus forecast of $0.20 per share. Weyerhaeuser also updated its near-term guidance, saying that it expected "significantly higher" earnings from its key wood-products business.
Other big names expected to report before markets open include Halliburton, Procter & Gamble, Oshkosh, Honeywell International, and Kimberley-Clark. So far this year, a majority of companies have reported results ahead of analysts' forecasts despite Wednesday's disappointing report from Apple, which closed down by more than 12% yesterday. Shares in Tempur-Pedic International could also extend yesterday's gains when trading starts after the company beat earnings expectations -- Tempur-Pedic stock gained 18% in premarket trading this morning after adding 9.2% yesterday.
The main European markets moved ahead decisively this morning, but the FTSE 100 was left behind slightly after the latest U.K. GDP figures revealed that the U.K. economy shrank by 0.3% in the final quarter of 2012, raising fears that Britain is heading for a triple-dip recession. The Q4 fall means that the U.K. economy failed to grow at all last year and remains 3.5% below its 2007 peak.
As of 7:45 a.m. EST, the DAX is up 1.3%, the CAC 40 is up 0.66%, the FTSE MIB is up 0.43%, and the IBEX 35 is up 0.43%. In London, the FTSE 100 (FTSEINDICES:^FTSE) has made a small gain of 12 points, or 0.19%. International Consolidated Airlines, which operates British Airways, was the most significant riser, up by 1.9% on above-average volume after it received a broker upgrade from JPMorgan Cazenove.
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