Futures Fall, But GE Shares Post Gain


U.S. stock index futures pointed to a lower open Friday, following weakness in the previous session and as foreign markets were lower.

Bank shares were broadly lower premarket with foreign conagion again in the news, while consumer weakness weighed on many companies' fourth-quarter balance sheets.

But the damage was mitigated after GE, the parent of CNBC.com, announced fourth-quarter figures in line with expectations.

The world's largest maker of jet engines and electric turbines said profit came to $3.72 billion, or 35 cents per diluted share, compared with $6.7 billion, or 66 cents per diluted share, a year earlier. Shares gained 5 percent in premarket trading.

Harley-Davidson shares were getting pounded after the motorcycle maker said it would lay off 1,100 workers and close plants as a global consumer slowdown battered its business and sent earnings below Wall Street estimates.

Fourth-quarter net income was 34 cents a share against analyst expectations of 57 cents a share. Harley shares fell more than 15 percent premarket.

Also in corporate news, Google beat estimates for its fourth-quarter earnings Thursday as advertising remained robust at the Internet giant, despite the economic slowdown. Shares were 1.1 percent higher premarket.

Staying in the technology sector, Samsung Electronicsposted its first ever quarterly loss Friday. The company joins the likes of Microsoft, Nokia and Sony in disappointing investors with results.

Meanwhile, Pfizer, the world's largest drug maker by revenue, could be set to buy rivalWyeth, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter. Pfizer shares were off 3 percent.

AndJohn Thain agreed to resign fromBank of America, only weeks after having embarked upon the post.

Bank of America shares, already under intense pressure, lost another 6 percent premarket and were drifting toward the $5 mark. Citigroup shares also were nearly 4 percent off and below $3 while JPMorgan Chase lost 3.5 percent.

Shares in Europe and Asia were lower as the banks continued to be a problem and Europe struggled with a recessionary environment.

Elsewhere, Xerox shares fell 4.6 percent after the office equipment maker's earnings of 30 cents a share missed expectations, and oil giant Schlumberger lost nearly 3 percent after its fourth-quarter earnings fell 17 percent and the company predicted tough times ahead.

In political news, President Barack Obama's passed key hurdles in Congress as his $825 billion stimulus plan and choice of Treasury chief were cleared.