Futures Hold Gains Despite Economic News

Stocks were poised to open higher Friday, despite some tepid economic news, as futures were buoyed following strong earnings from Citigroup.

Citigroup jumped after the bank's profits surged, topping estimates, even though the firm's revenue was essentially flat from the previous year.

On the economic front, a gauge of manufacturing in New York State showed the sector unexpectedly contracted for the second month in a row as new orders worsened.

The New York Fed's Empire State index rose to minus 3.76 from minus 7.79 in June. However, it was still weaker than the reading of 4.50 that economists had expected, according to a Reuters poll.

Meanwhile, U.S. consumer prices fell slightly more than expected in June to post their biggest drop in a year on weak gasoline costs. The Consumer Price Index slipped 0.2 percent, the largest decline since lat June, after rising 0.2 percent in May, according to the Labor Department. Economists polled by Reuters had expected prices to fall 0.1 percent.

President Barack Obama suspended U.S. budget negotiations for the day on Thursday to give congressional leaders a chance to come up with a plan of action on how to unblock talks meant to cut deficits and avert a debt default.

Stocks declined in the previous session after Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke refuted suggestions the Fed could take further action to stimulate the economy, contradicting comments from the day before that led to a late-session rally.

Also among earnings, Google reported earnings that exceeded even the most bullish forecasts, sending its shares soaring. Evercore Raises price target on the search-engine giant to $735 from $670.

Meanwhile, Oracle wants to question Google chief executive Larry Page in the course of high-takes patent litigation between the two companies, according to a court filing, Reuters reported.

Also on the tech front, Apple gained after at least two brokerages raised their price targets on the iPod maker.

In M&A news, Petrohawk Energy skyrocketed more than 60 percent after mining group BHP Billiton said it will buy the gas producer for $12.1 billion.

UBS has won a review by a Manhattan federal judge of $2.6 billion of lawsuits brought by the trustee liquidating Bernard Madoff's firm, at least the fourth time a bank has obtained access to that court.

Meanwhile, investigations are progressing into the U.S. operations of News Corp after the UK phone hacking scandal, U.S. Attorney-General Eric H. Holder said in Australia on Friday. In the UK News International’s chief executive Rebekah Brooks finally bowed to political pressure tendering her resignation.

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