Citigroup's better-than-expected earnings report turned the tide ahead of the open.
Citigroup's earnings was expected to be the story of the day, and the mood going into it was already dampened by a string of weak earnings reports after Thursday's closing bell. Futures were weaker overnight but staged a dramatic turnaround into positive territory, as investors looked at the Citigroup numbers. The dollar also gained.
Some of the biggest names - Google, Microsoft , Merrill Lynch - all delivered shockers, either with disappointing numbers, forecasts or both. Google reported net of $1.25 billion, or $4.63 per share, below the $4.74 per share expected. Google said consumers are cautious about online spending patterns.
IBM was the exception, and even with a positive outlook, its stock took a hit.
Citigroup announced a smaller than anticipated writedown of $7.2 billion. The bank reported a loss of $0.54 per share, narrower than the expected $0.66 per share loss.
Other big names ahead of the opening include Honeywell and Schlumberger. Honeywell earnings rose 18 percent. Its per share profit of $0.96 per share beat analysts forecasts of $0.94 per share, and it raised its forecast for the year by $0.05 to a range of $3.75 to $3.85 per share.
Also encouraging to investors is news Friday morning of a $7.46 billion off for Barr Pharmaceuticals from Teva Pharmaceuticals.
There is no economic data of note, but stocks could be volatile around options expirations.
(Note to readers: the Look Ahead has been updated to reflect market developments)
Stocks were on a tear Thursday, with financials leading the charge once more. The Dow rose 207 or 1.8 percent to 11,446, and the S&P 500 was up 14 points or 1.2 percent to 1260.
The S&P financial sector leapt 6.5 percent. For the week so far, the group is up 10.2 percent. Traders said the group was propelled by better-than-expected earnings reports from Wells Fargo and J.P. Morgan but the heavily shorted sector also rose as traders moved positions after the SEC announced changes to the short selling rules.