Stocks drifted higher early Thursday as the previous session's late momentum was muted by concern about an upcoming estimate of first-quarter growth. Index futures recently showed the S&P 500 trading a point above fair value, while the Nasdaq 100 was set for a flat open. The 10-year Treasury bond was up 1/32 in price to yield 5.04%, while the dollar fell against the yen and euro. Overseas markets were mixed, with London's FTSE adding 0.2% to 5601 and Germany's Xetra DAX up 0.6% to 5618. In Asia, Japan's Nikkei fell 1.3% overnight to 15,694, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng lost 0.8% to 15,670. Stocks turned on a dime Wednesday after the S&P 500 fell to its lowest point of 2006 then bounced. For the session, the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 19 points, or 0.2%, to 11,117, while the S&P 500 gained 2 points, or 0.2%, to 1259, and the Nasdaq Composite rose 10 points, or 0.5%, to 2169. Since their recent peaks on May 10, the Dow has lost 592 points, or 5.1%, while the S&P 500 has lost 67 points, or 5.1%. The Nasdaq, whose most recent high was May 5, the loss entering Thursday is 175 points, or 7.5%. Commodity prices were higher after a selloff Wednesday. July crude gained 25 cents to $70.11 a barrel, while gold added $5 to $642.50 and copper gained 10 cents to $3.74 a pound. Weakness in commodity prices has coincided with a flight from risk assets where speculators had enjoyed bull markets until earlier this month. Thursday's economic slate is dominated by the Commerce Department's revision to first-quarter gross domestic product, with the growth rate expected to be revised upward to 5.8%, the fastest three-month clip since the third quarter of 2003. The implicit price deflator, a key inflation measure, is expected to hold at 3.3%. To view Ana Dane's video take on today's premarket action,
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The other big data are existing home sales for April. Economists expect the National Association of Realtors to say the annualized rate fell to 6.79 million last month, from 6.92 million in March. Two marquee stock upgrades lent support to the averages early Thursday. At Bank of America, Wal-Mart ( WMT) went to buy from neutral based on expectation for stronger earnings this year and next. At Prudential, eBay ( EBAY) was raised to overweight based on valuation. The stock is down 30% on the year, making it one of the Nasdaq's weakest-performing names. According to the Wall Street Journal, Regions Financial ( RF) has reached an agreement to buy Birmingham, Ala., rival Amsouth ( ASO) for stock worth $10 billion. The deal would create the country's 10th largest bank. MasterCard International ( MA) priced a 61.5 million-share initial public offering late Wednesday at $39 apiece, slightly below the expected range. The deal, raising $2.39 billion, is among the largest U.S. IPOs of the past two years. Homebuilder Ryland ( RYL) cut its full-year earnings guidance Thursday, citing a weakening order outlook. Ryland expects to earn $8.50 to $9 a share this year, down from the $9.50 a share it forecast last month.