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Futures Point Higher; Microsoft, Amazon Lead

Futures added to modest gains as Microsoft posted an impressive earnings beat, joining the parade of firms that have shown positive surprises.

A day after the rollout of its new Windows 7 operating system, Microsoft said it earned 40 cents per share in the previous quarter, well ahead of analyst expectations of 32 cents. Shares jumped 7.7 percent in premarket trading.

A handful of companies reporting after the bell Thursday blew away analyst estimates. Amazon.com led the parade and its shares are up 17 percent in premarket trading.

American Express also exceeded expectations as did competitor Capital One Financial , whose shares rose nearly 8 percent premarket.

  • Pre-Markets/Futures Data
  • Dow 30: Extra-Hour Quotes
  • Diversfied manufacturer Honeywell reported before the bell, beating estimates even though profit fell 15 percent to 80 cents per share. Shares gained 2.2 percent premarket.

    Whirlpool, Schlumberger and Ingersoll-Rand also reported better-than-expected earnings.

    Other earnings reports of note this morning will include: Exelon; Fortune Brands and T.Rowe Price.

    Symbol
    Price
     
    Change
    %Change
    EXC
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    HON
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    SLB
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    TROW
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    WHR
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    Wall Street also was watching a speech from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, who called on Congress to act quickly on its overhaul of the financial regulatory systemand outlined some of his own ideas.

    Fed Vice Chairman Donald Kohn will also speak at that conference, with his remarks coming at 11:30 am.

    Friday's key economic report comes at 10 am, when the National Association of Realtors puts out its September report on existing home sales. Economists are looking for an increase of 5.9 percent to an annual rate of 5.4 million units, following a 2.7 percent drop in August.

    News items of interest: Chrysler Financial will liquidate and go out of business within two years, following the bankruptcies and restructurings of both General Motors and Chrysler.

    The European Union has approvedMerck's acquisition of Schering-Plough . Time Warner's magazine division Time Inc. is reportedly planning another round of job cuts.

    Mining stocks could be in focus as well after Credit Suisse upgraded the group to "benchmark" due to expected growth from China as well as high global liquidity.

    The UK economy contracted for the sixth consecutive quarter during the third quarter, making the current recession the longest on record.

    - Writen by Peter Schacknow, Senior Producer, CNBC Breaking News Desk