Futures Take Pause, Palm Takes Hit


U.S. futures drifted ahead of the open Friday, taking a breather from their recent strong gains, as investors braced for potential volatility because of quadruple witching - market index futures, market index options, stock options and stock futures expiring at the same time.

Stocks are riding an unusual winning streak: though the movements have been modest and amid low volumes, the Dow has now risen for eight straight sessions, its longest such streak since an eight-day run last August.

Palmshares tumbled more than 15 percent in premarket trading after company executives told analysts on a conference call Thursday that fourth-quarter revenue will be less than $150 million, compared with analysts' expectations of around $306 million, according to Thomson Reuters.

The Food and Drug Administration backed a new use for Boston Scientific's Cardiac Resynchronization Therapy Defibrillators for use on patients with heart failures. Shares rose 2 percent.

Synaptics shares slipped 1.4 percent premarket after Oppenheimer dowgraded the touchscreen technology maker to "perform" from "outperform."

And SunPower shares tumbled 10 percent, a day after the solar company reported a 70 drop in fourt-quarter profit and predicted a weak year ahead.

Ford shares slipped about 1 percent premarket after the Wall Street Journal reported that the chairman of China's Zhejiang Holding Group said talks to acquire Ford's unprofitable Volvo unit have been held up over unspecified issues at Ford.

Ford's shares earlier this week hit a five-year high after Moody's upgraded the automaker's debt and said its finances were likely to improve even more.

Car sales for March are accelerating past analyst expectations. An article in Friday's Journal says sales are picking up speed, and that even troubled Toyota is showing dramatic increases in sales as the month moves on. Toyota shares edged higher premarket.

There are no economic reports set for release, nor any earnings reports of note.

Asian markets closed higher while European shares hit a 17-month high, with bailed-out British bank Lloyds Banking Group surging after it said it will return to a profit this year.

There are new indications that Googlemay shut down its Chinese Web site, with an announcement expected Monday, according to some published reports. Google itself is declining comment.

And health care stocks will also be in focus, as last minute bargaining continues on the health care reform bill. It appears headed for a weekend vote, but it's unclear at this point whether the Democrats will have the votes necessary to pass the legislation.

- Written by Peter Schacknow, Senior Producer, CNBC Breaking News Desk.