Stocks Open Higher as Ford Soars

Stocks opened higher Friday as investors shrugged off a dismal durable-good report and were encouraged by Ford's narrower-than-expected loss.

This comes after major indexes eked out a slight gainin the previous session with bank shares getting a lift from some better-than-expected earnings.

Ford shares soared 20 percent after the automaker reported a net loss of 60 cents a share, compared with 3 cents per share in the same quarter of 2008. Excluding items, it lost 75 cents a share, beating expectations, which had called for a loss of $1.23 a share.

The company expects to be profitable in 2011, CEO Alan Mulally said.

On the economic front, U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said that the downturn has started to show signs of improving in recent weeks, when speaking at a meeting of G20 officials in Washington.

And March durable-goods orders fell 0.8 percent, half of the drop expected, though February was revised sharply lower to show a 2.1-percent gain. That number was previously reported as a 3.5-percent increase. Excluding the volatile transportation component, orders fell 0.6 percent, after a 2-percent increase last month.

New-home sales fell 0.6 percent in March after an upwardly revised 8.2-percent jump in February. Inventories of new homes dropped to 311,000 from 328,000, the biggest decline in more than 45 years.

In other earnings news: Dow component 3M said it earned 81 cents a share in first quarter, below analysts' consensus estimates of 86 cents a share. Manufacturer Honeywell matched forecasts with a profit of 54 cents a share, but cut its full-year earnings guidance, citing the slumping economy.

American Express’ results came in well above analysts’ expectations Thursday, despite suffering a rise in bad loans. Meanwhile, Microsoft matched its forecasts and Amazon beat forecasts.

Regulators conducting the “stress test” will begin to reveal their findings to the country’s 19 largest banks under investigation later in the session. Officials will also publicly outline the process they are using, which could give investors an insight into how tough the government’s stance will be.

The final results of the test will be out on May 4 and will include details on the sustainability of banking giants such as Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo.

Still to Come:

FRIDAY: G-7 meeting in Washington; new-home sales

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