Futures pointed to a fourth straight session of gains Friday amid some much-needed good news from banks.
In economic news, the trade deficit narrowed more than expected in January, shrinking 10 percent to $36.03 billion, amid a slowdown in demand for imported goods as the recession clipped spending.
Import prices dropped 0.2 percent in January, less than expected, while export prices unexpectedly slipped 0.1 percent. Economists had expected export prices to tick higher.
Citigroup Chairman Richard Parsons said Thursday that the bank doesn't need any more capital injections from the government and expressed confidence that Citi would remain in private hands.
The bank is preparing to nominate some four new members to its board, including former U.S. Bancorp chief executive Jerry Grundhofer, as soon as next week, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Meanwhile, Bank of America's chief executive said it would be a "nightmare" for U.S. banks to be nationalized, wiping out shareholders and perhaps bondholders, and further damaging an economy that might begin to recover as soon as this year.
He added that he was confident that Bank of America, the largest US bank, will pass the government's pending "stress test,"and would not need more government capital.
Shares of both companies again posted gains premarket, with Citi picking up 6 percent and BofA rising 6.5 percent. Both were actively traded.
General Motors shares continued to pick up after gaining 17 percent Thursday. The battered automaker said it would not need government cash injections for now, and its shares gained 3.2 percent premarket.
But Wal-Mart shares slipped, edging lower after Goldman Sachs removed the company from its conviction buy list.
In other news, Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway was stripped of its 'AAA' credit rating by Fitch, barely hours after S&P cut General Electric's top-tier rating, as the global financial crisis pummels America's corporate titans.
The legendary investor said the odds favor a US acquisition by Berkshire rather than a foreign one, because there are more opportunities opening up in the US and fewer competing buyers bidding up prices.
However, he did not completely rule out foreign acquisitions.
Investors actually reacted positively to the GE cut as some feared the reduction could have been worse. GE shares gained 12.7 percent Thursday and were up another 2.4 percent in premarket trading Friday.
Asian stocks rallied on hopes the financials were slowly crawling out of the pit and markets in Europe were also higher.