NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- U.S. stock futures were rising Friday ahead of reports that are expected to point to improvement in the economy.

Futures for the

Dow Jones Industrial Average

were gaining 12 points, or 24.3 points above fair value, at 12,986. Futures for the

S&P 500

were up 2.1 points, or 3.4 points above fair value, at 1365. Futures for the

Nasdaq

were up 2.5 points, or 8.6 points above fair value, at 2603.

Stocks closed up Thursday as data showed surprising resilience in German business confidence and further stabilization in U.S. jobless claims.

The final University of Michigan/Thomson Reuters index of consumer sentiment for February will be released at 9:55 a.m. EST. It's expected to show a reading of 72.8, up from 72.5 previously.

At 10 a.m., the Census Bureau's report on new-home sales for January is expected to show sales climbing to a nine-month high at a 315,000 annual rate after falling to a 307,000 annual clip in December.

"We see no reason to argue too vehemently with that consensus," said Dennis Gartman, the notable investor and publisher of The Gartman Letter. "It seems quite reasonable to us, but if we must argue we'll argue that the consensus is a bit low and that 330 thousand would be our 'guess.'"

Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics, is looking for a big upside surprise from new home sales, estimating the number at 350,000. He cited the strong performance of the homebuilder stocks over the past few months, saying it "suggests something is stirring in the new home market," as well as the weather.

Germany's DAX was rising 0.48% while London's FTSE was down 0.03% as the Office for National Statistics confirmed that the United Kingdom's economy shrank 0.2% the fourth quarter due to a fall in business investment. Full-year expansion was also downwardly revised to 0.8%. Japan's Nikkei Average settled up 0.54% and Hong Kong's Hang Seng closed up 0.12%.

In corporate news, insurance giant

AIG

(AIG) - Get Report

reported fourth-quarter net income of $19.8 billion, boosted by a gain of $17.7 billion related to the release of a deferred tax asset valuation allowance. Operating profit in the quarter was 82 cents a share. Analysts were looking for 63 cents. Shares were popping 6% to $29.67 in premarket trading.

J.C. Penney

(JCP) - Get Report

, the department store giant, said that it lost $87 million, or $0.41 a share, in fourth quarter profits, compared to a gain of $271 million a year earlier. Adjusted income fell to $45 million, or $0.21 a share. Analysts on average were looking for earnings of 68 cents a share on revenue of $5.5 billion. The retailer has jumped by $1.4 billion in value after new CEO Ron Johnson outlined a turnaround plan that kicked off on Feb. 1. Shares were down 0.3% to $41.80 before the opening bell.

Salesforce.com

(CRM) - Get Report

, the cloud computing company, topped Wall Street's fourth-quarter earnings expectations. For the three months ended Jan. 31, the company reported adjusted earnings of $61.6 million, or 43 cents a share, on revenue of $632 million. Analysts were expecting profit of 40 cents a share on revenue of $624 million. Salesforce.com forecast non-GAAP earnings for the current fiscal year of $1.58 to $1.62 a share on revenue of $2.92 billion to $2.95 billion. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters see profit of $1.62 a share on revenue of $2.91 billion. Shares were surging 12.4% to $148.05.

Bank of America

(BAC) - Get Report

said it would stop selling new home loans to Fannie Mae. The announcement Thursday highlights a long legal battle over how many defaulted mortgages Bank of America should buy back from Fannie in the aftermath of the housing bubble burst. Bank of America has said it will turn to Freddie Mac or Ginnie Mae to back up its mortgages and that the recent decision would not affect its customers. The move, however, is huge given that Bank of America sold almost $38 billion in mortgages to Fannie last year. Shares of Bank of America were rising 0.5% to $8.06.

Private equity firm

Apollo Global

is said to be near a deal to buy

El Paso's

(EP)

oil-exploration business for about $7 billion, according to the Wall Street Journal. The agreement, which includes Riverstone Holdings, an energy-focused private equity group, may be signed by Friday. The oil and gas industry has been a handful of deals in the past year. Kinder Morgan announced that it would sell El Paso's oil exploration unit after acquiring the whole company for $21 billion last year.

El Paso shares were 0.6% lower to $26.77 while Apollo Global was falling 1.6% to $13.93 in premarket trading.

April oil futures were adding 43 cents to $108.26 a barrel amid fresh hopes for a global economic recovery and risks of tightening sanctions against oil exporter Iran. In other commodities, April gold futures were falling $5.40 to $1,780.90 an ounce.

The dollar index was down 0.2% at $78.49. The benchmark 10-year Treasury was up 1/32, diluting the yield to 2%.

-- Written by Andrea Tse in New York.

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