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Stocks at Record Highs, Futures Pullback as Google, Microsoft Disappoint

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- With stock markets at record highs, futures were cautious Friday as investors weighed disappointing earnings from Google (GOOG) and Microsoft (MSFT) against better-than-expected quarterly reports from General Electric (GE) Schlumberger (SLB) and Honeywell (HON).

Futures for the S&P 500 were down 2.5 points, or 6.12 points below fair value, to 1,678. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were off 35 points, or 40.54 points below fair value, to 15,446. Futures for the Nasdaq were shedding 5.25 points, or 28.92 points below fair value, to 3,042.25.

Major U.S. stock markets jumped Thursday, driving the S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average to new closing and intra-day highs after a spate of upbeat earnings reports led by UnitedHealth (UNH) during the regular trading session, and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke told Congress the central bank was staying its course on stimulus.

Greg Sarian, director and partner at HighTower's Sarian Group in Philadelphia, said the markets this week are "breathing a sigh of relief" largely driven by Bernanke's dovish tone describing a continuation of accommodative monetary policy for some time. In addition, economic data have been suggesting that "a slow, but forward moving pace of recovery" will continue as markets reacted favorably to decent Philly Fed and jobless claim numbers.

"Lastly, corporate earnings have also boosted the markets confidence as bellwether companies such as IBM and Verizon reported solid numbers with positive guidance going forward," said Sarian. "We believe the market recovery is real and will continue, not in a straight line however. Volatility will persist and present opportunities to increase equity exposure."

General Electric was rising 2.24% to $24.16 after the Fairfield, Conn., conglomerate reported profit growth in all of its industrial businesses, except for Power & Water. The company posted second-quarter operating earnings of $3.685 billion, or 36 cents a share, down from $4.059 billion or 39 cents a share, in the first quarter, and $4.010 billion, or 38 cents a share, in the second quarter of 2012. The first-quarter operating profit beat the consensus estimate of 35 cents, among analysts polled by Thomson Reuters.

Honeywell, the industrial conglomerate, was edging up 1.24% to $84 after exceeding second quarter earnings expectations by seven cents at $1.28 a share for the second quarter amid stronger profit margins.

Oilfield services company Schlumberger was popping nearly 3.5% to $81.19 after reporting second quarter adjusted earnings of $1.15 a share, beating the Wall Street target by five cents, as strength in its international markets overshadowed softness in North America.

Appliance company Whirlpool (WHR) booked second-quarter revenue above expectations and hiked its full-year outlook as profit margins and sales improved. Shares were rising 2.84% to $122.76 even though earnings came in short by five cents at $2.37 a share.

Microsoft was giving up more than 8% to $32.49 after the software giant's fiscal fourth-quarter results missed Wall Street's top- and bottom-line estimates. Microsoft reported quarterly revenue of $19.9 billion, up from $18.06 billion in the year-earlier quarter, but well below the $20.73 billion expected by analysts.

Excluding items, Microsoft earned 52 cents a share, down from 73 cents a share in the same period last year, and below Wall Street's forecast of 75 cents a share. The company also lowered its operating expense guidance for fiscal year 2014 to $31.3 billion from $31.9 billion. Microsoft acknowledged on Thursday the impact of a weak PC market, but pointed to strength in other areas.

Google was slumping more than 2.5% to $885.85 after the Internet search giant posted second-quarter earnings that missed analysts' expectations. Google earned $9.56 a share on $11.1 billion in revenue, excluding traffic acquisition costs. Including TAC, which Google shares with its partners, the company generated $14.11 billion in revenue for the quarter.

Analysts were expecting profit of $10.78 a share on revenue of $14.42 billion, including TAC. Excluding TAC, revenue was expected at $11.33 billion. Costs-per-click, a key advertising metric, continued to be weak for Google, falling 6% year over year, and 2% sequentially. That weighed on results, as investors continue to worry whether mobile ads can ever be monetized at the rate desktop ads are.

A number of reports were helping to offset some of the caution caused by Microsoft and Google's misses. Moody's Investors Service on Thursday evening moved its outlook on its Aaa government bond rating of the U.S. back to stable, replacing the negative outlook that has been in place since August 2011. At the same time, Moody's also affirmed its U.S. government Aaa rating.

China's central bank announced the beginning of sweeping reforms on interest rates Friday as the government seeks to steer the country's financial system towards a more market-oriented one in order to help China sustain strong economic growth. The People's Bank of China announced Friday that it was removing the floor on its lending rates at commercial banks, allowing them the flexibility to reduce rates as much as necessary to encourage borrowing.

Friday is a quiet day for economic releases.

The benchmark 10-year Treasury was rising 4/32, diluting the yield to 2.518%.The dollar was down 0.17% to $82.68 according to the U.S. dollar index.

The FTSE 100 was slipping 0.18% and the DAX in Germany was shedding 0.08%. The Hong Kong Hang Seng settled higher by 0.08% and the Nikkei 225 in Japan declined 1.48%.

The Shanghai Composite in China declined 1.52% to 1,992.65, bringing the benchmark index down 2.3% for the week, its biggest weekly loss so far in July amid ongoing economic slowdown concerns.

Written by Andrea Tse in New York

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Andrea Tse.>.

Stock quotes in this article: ^DJI, ^GSPC, ^IXIC, HON, GOOG, MSFT, GE, SLB, WHR 

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