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Futures Rise After Earnings, Housing Starts

Stock index futures rose after a better-than-expected rise in housing starts and after better-than-expected earnings reports from Goldman Sachs and Johnson & Johnson.

Housing starts in March rose 7.2 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 549,000 units, while building permits for the month rose 11.2 percent, the Commerce Department said Tuesday.

Goldman Sachssoundly beat expectations, with both sales and earnings in the first quarter coming in strong.

Johnson & Johnson, meanwhile, also reported sales and earnings that were better than expected. The diversified health care company also raised its profiit forecast for the full year.

Technology stocks will also be in focus after

Texas Instruments

reported

earnings which came in below analysts’ expectations

after the bell on Monday.

IBM and Intel report earnings after the market closes today.

Investors will keep a close eye on Research in Motion on Tuesday when the group’s Playbook, its response to Apple’s iPad, goes on sale.

Apple is in the spotlight in a separate development as well after Reuters reported the group sued rivalSamsung Electronics, claiming that Samsung's Galaxy line of mobile phones and tablet "slavishly" copies the iPhone and iPad.

S&P’s revision of its outlook for U.S. long-term debt to "negative" from "stable" pushed stocks down by more than 1 percent on Monday. The White House downplayed the decision, describing the move as a “political judgment”.

The threat has nevertheless already spurred government action. Vice President Joe Biden will host a meeting with members of Congress on May 5 on how to tackle the U.S. deficit.

In Europe, Swiss drugmaker Novartis reported first-quarter earnings above analyst forecasts. The stock was 3.3 percent higher in mid-morning trade.

On Tap Next Week:

TUESDAY: Fifth Third shareholders meeting, Moody's shareholders meeting, BlackBerry Tablet launches; earnings from IBM, Intel, Yahoo after-the-bell.
WEDNESDAY: Weekly mortgage applications, existing home sales, oil inventories; earnings from Abbott Labs, AT&T, United Tech and Wells Fargo before-the-bell and AmEx, Amgen, Apple, Qualcomm, Yum Brands after-the-bell.
THURSDAY: Weekly jobless claims, Philadelphia Fed survey, leading indicators, money supply, Citigroup shareholders meeting; earnings from DuPont, GE, McDonald's, Morgan Stanley, Travelers and Verizon before-the-bell and Advanced Micro and Capital One after-the-bell.
FRIDAY: Good Friday—All markets closed, banks open.

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