Stock Futures Rise Following Strong GDP Data

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Stock futures were pointing to a stronger open Friday as the U.S. economy grew at a faster-than-expected pace of 3.1% in the fourth quarter.

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were up by 27 points, or 40 points above fair value, at 12,143. Futures for the S&P 500 were higher by nearly 3 points, or 3 points above fair value, at 1308, and Nasdaq futures were ahead by79 points, or 5 points above fair value.

Stocks extended gains Thursday as investors shrugged off global concerns and focused on positive earnings and better-than-expected jobless claims data.

In its third and final estimate on fourth-quarter 2010 gross domestic product, the U.S. Department of Commerce said the economy expanded by 3.1%. Economists had been anticipating an upward revision to 2.9% from its previous estimate of 2.8%. That compares with growth of 2.6% in the third quarter.

Encouraging earnings reports out late Thursday were also lifting the U.S. market on Friday. Consulting services company Accenture ( ACN) earned a strong second-quarter profit, raised its outlook and announced a semi-annual cash dividend of 45 cents a share.

>>Stocks to Watch

Shares of Oracle ( ORCL) were gaining 4.5% to $33.60 after reporting better-than-expected earnings and lifting its quarterly dividend by 20%.

Research In Motion ( RIMM), however, issued a disappointing outlook . Shares were down 11.3% at $56.83 ahead of Friday's opening bell.

Global stocks strengthened even as Japan's nuclear regulator said the No. 3 reactor at the damaged Fukushima Dia-Ichi nuclear plant could be cracked and leaking radiation. Shares of Japanese automakers began climbing back after steep losses in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami on March 11.

Standard & Poor's downgraded its long-term credit rating on Portugal to BBB from A- after the country's austerity plan was rejected . Portugal's short-term credit rating remains at A-2, but is on CreditWatch with negative implications, the agency said.

In Libya, Western warplanes hit Libyan ground forces at a key town and NATO is preparing to assume full control of the no-fly zone over Libya .

Japan's Nikkei rose 1.1% and Hong Kong's Hang Seng also gained 1.1%. London's FTSE was adding 0.4% and the DAX in Frankfurt was also ahead by 0.4%.

At 9:55 a.m., the market will get a final read on March consumer sentiment from the University of Michigan. Wall Street is expecting a downward revision to 68 from a prior estimate of 68.2, according to Briefing.com. March's level compares with a reading of 77.5 in February.

In commodity markets, the May crude contract was adding 8 cents to trade at $105.68 a barrel. The April gold contract was down by $1.20 to trade at $1,433.70 an ounce.

The benchmark 10-year Treasury rose 2/32, diluting the yield to 3.398%. The dollar weakened against a basket of currencies, with the dollar index down by 0.2%.

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--Written by Melinda Peer in New York.
Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors and reporters from holding positions in any individual stocks.

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