Futures Hold Slight Gains After Economic News

Stock index futures held modest gains after news that personal income and spending was a little better than expected, and after strong earnings results from Caterpillar, among others.

Stocks rallied to new record highs again on Thursday despite slow first-quarter growth figures and disappointing weekly jobless claims.

Personal income rose 0.5 percent in March, and personal spending rose 0.6 percent, the Commerce Department said. Consumer spending rose as gasoline and food prices gained.

In earnings news, Caterpillar gained after soundly beating first-quarter earnings estimates, and giving a better forecast for the full year. The heavy-equipment maker's net income was $1.84 a share on sales of $12.95 billion, beating estimates for $1.31 a share on sales of $11.69 billion.

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Merck rose slightly after also delivering better-than-expected first-quarter results. The pharmaceutical company maintained its long-range forecast.

And another Dow component, Chevron , traded flat despite a boost in quarterly profits.

Microsoft fell despite beating estimates for both profits and salesin its earnings release after the bell Thursday,as a drop in sales for Windows hinted that a downturn in personal computer sales may be underway.

Research in Motion sank in pre-market trading after the maker of the Blackberry delivered a forecast for weaker earnings and revenues after the market closed on Thursday.

Also in economic news, Chicago purchasing managers data is due at 9:45 am, and consumer sentiment data will be released at 9:55 a.m.

Silver and gold were slightly higheras the dollar continued to sink toward three-year lows against a basket of currency. Silver rose to nearly $49 an ounce, while spot gold traded above $1,536 an announce.

China’s Yuan broke past the psychologically important level of 6.50 per dollar, raising expectations that Beijing will allow the currency to strengthen.

Trading is thin in Europe with the London Stock Exchange closed on Friday as the UK observes a public holiday to celebrate the wedding of Prince William to Catherine Middleton.

Inflation in the euro zone rose to 2.8 percent from 2.7 percent a month ago. The increase could mean the European Central Bank could raise rates again in June.

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