Investing.com - U.S. stock futures pointed to a steady open on Friday, as markets eyed the release of U.S. ecomomic reports later in the day, after downbeat data on Thursday sparked fresh concerns over the strength of the U.S. economic recovery.
Ahead of the open, the Dow Jones Industrial Average futures pointed to a 0.02% uptick, S&P 500 futures signaled a 0.01% gain, while the Nasdaq 100 futures indicated a 0.10% rise.
U.S. equities came under pressure on Thursday after the Commerce Department on Thursday said U.S. retail sales fell 0.4% last month, confounding expectations for a 0.3% increase.
In addition, the Department of Labor said the number of people who filed for unemployment assistance in the U.S. last week rose by 8,000 to 339,000 from the previous week’s total of 331,000.
The insurance sector was likely to be in focus, amid reports American International Group Chief Executive Officer Robert Benmosche is increasing returns for shareholders as he targets job cuts to simplify the firm.
AIG, up 0.32% in pre-market trade, boosted its quarterly dividend by 25% to 12.5 cents a share and authorized another USD1 billion in stock buybacks on Thursday, after posting fourth-quarter profit that beat analysts’ estimates.
Avon Products was also expected to be active, as the seller of cosmetics said it may spend as much as USD132 million to resolve criminal and civil inquiries into whether it paid bribes in China and other countries.
In the auto sector, Bloomberg reported that Ford Motor now gets most of its global sales growth from small SUVs such as the Escape and EcoSport, which outsold its F-Series pickups by 2-to-1 in 2013.
Other stocks likely to be in focus included Campbell Soup, Interpublic, Ventas and JM Smucker, scheduled to report quarterly results later in the day.
Across the Atlantic, European stock markets were sharply higher. The EURO STOXX 50 gained 0.54%, France’s CAC 40 advanced 0.40%, Germany''s DAX climbed 0.57%, while Britain''s FTSE 100 added 0.13%.
During the Asian trading session, Hong Kong''s Hang Seng Index climbed 0.60%, while Japan’s Nikkei 225 Index plummeted 1.53%.
Later in the day, the U.S. was to produce the preliminary reading of the University of Michigan consumer sentiment index, as well as data on import prices and industrial production.