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Market Hustle: Stock Futures Pare Losses After Housing Data Surprise

NEW YORK (The Street) -- U.S. stock futures were paring losses Friday as the markets found something to cheer about with better-than-expected housing market data following Thursday's global equities selloff.

Dow Jones Industrial Average futures were down 10 points, or 4.81 points below fair value, to 16,411. S&P 500 futures were off 1.5 points, or 2 points below fair value, to 1,865.75. Nasdaq futures were down 3 points, or 2.77 points below fair value, to 3,560.3.

  • U.S. housing starts increased to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.072 million in April vs. the average economist's expectation of 980,000. Building permits rose to an annual rate of 1.08 million vs. the consensus target of 1.01 million.

  • The housing reports are being followed at 9:55 a.m. EDT by the University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index for May. Economists expect the index to have improved.

  • U.S. markets fell on Thursday amid mixed economic data, while retail stocks dropped on disappointing earnings. Small caps, as measured by the Russell 2000, lost more than 1.6%.

  • Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said late Thursday that "although we have come far, it is also true that we have further to go to achieve a healthy economy."

  • European markets remained lackluster after the prior day's sluggish eurozone growth report and as tensions continued to escalate in Ukraine ahead of presidential elections on May 25. The FTSE 100 was trading down 0.23% and the DAX was off 0.46%.

  • J.C. Penney (JCP) was surging more than 20% in premarket trading after reporting Thursday evening a narrower-than-expected first-quarter loss of $1.16 a share. The retailer forecast a second-quarter same-store sales increase in the mid-single digits.

  • Friday morning brought a handful of mergers-and-acquisitions headlines with Darden Restaurants (DRI - Get Report) down 1.07% after announcing it agreed to sell its Red Lobster business to Golden Gate Capital for $2.1 billion in cash. Abbott Laboratories (ABT - Get Report) was up 1.4% after entering a deal to buy Latin American pharmaceutical company CFR Pharmaceuticals for about $2.9 billion. The company said the purchase will more than double its Latin American-branded generics pharmaceutical presence.

  • St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank President James Bullard will give a speech on the economy and monetary policy later in the morning.

-- By Andrea Tse in New York

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