U.S. stock index futures struggled to find direction Friday even as General Electric and Bank of America both posted earnings that easily topped expectations and the housing market showed more signs of recovery.
BofA said it earned 28 cents a share, ahead of expectations of 9 cents, while GE posted earnings of 21 cents per share for the first quarter, versus expectations of 16 cents. (GE is the parent company of CNBC.com.)
BofA shares gained 2.3 percent in premarket trading and headed toward $20, a level the stock has not seen since Nov. 5, 2008 as the financial crisis intensified.
GE gained 2.2 percent and also neared $20, where it has not closed since Oct. 3 of the same year, even as the company's profit tumbled 31 percent. GE CEO Jeff Immelt said he saw "encouraging signs" in the economy.
In economic news, housing starts rose more than expected in Marchto their highest level since November 2008 and permits to build new homes scaled a 17- month high. The number of starts was a 20 percent gain over March 2009.
Mattel also joined the positive earnings parade, with the toymaker reporting a surprise profit of 7 cents a share against analyst expectations of a 3-cent loss. Shares gained 4.5 percent.
And Gannett also beat expectations with a 49-cent per share profit that sent the media chain's shares up 3.3 percent.