Stock Futures Mixed Ahead of Home Sales Data

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- U.S. stock futures were pointing to a mixed start Friday as the markets awaited new-home sales data.

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were losing 30 points, or 5.1 points below fair value, at 12,971. Futures for the S&P 500 were off 2.3 points, or 0.6 points below fair value, at 1387, implying that the benchmark stock index could extend its steepest weekly decline since December. Futures for the Nasdaq were behind by 1.8 points, or 2.2 points above fair value, at 2730.

U.S. stocks fell Thursday after economic data stoked fears about Europe slipping into a recession and slowing growth in China.

"Although China appears to have avoided a hard landing, we do not expect it to revert back to the double-digit growth trend of the past decade," Barclays researchers said in a quarterly publication.

At 10 a.m., the Census Bureau is expected to say that sales of new single-family homes in the U.S. rose to a 325,000 annual rate in February, up from a 321,000 rate previously and the highest level in more than a year.

Looking abroad, London's FTSE on Friday was dipping 0.1% and Germany's DAX was falling 0.13% after the Nationwide Building Society said that consumer confidence in the U.K. fell in February amid increasing joblessness and feeble economic growth.

In Asia, Japan's Nikkei Average closed down 1.14% and Hong Kong's Hang Seng index also finished in negative territory, down 1.11%.

In corporate news, Nike ( NKE), the sneaker maker, posted third-quarter profit ahead of consensus estimates. Beaverton, Ore.-based Nike earned of $560 million, or $1.20 a share, on revenue of $5.85 billion for the quarter ended Feb. 29, beating the average earnings estimate of analysts of $1.17 a share on revenue of $5.82 billion. Gross margin came in at 43.8% for the quarter, down from 45.8% a year earlier. Shares were up 0.5% to $111.50 in early morning trading.

KB Home ( KBH), the homebuilder, said its revenue for the quarter ended February 29 totaled $254.6 million, much lower than the $337.7 million analysts were expecting. The company also saw a net loss of $45.8 million, or 59 cents a share, compared to estimates for a loss of 24 cents a share.

The announcement was a huge disappointment given that analysts were expecting the company to blow past expectations. The company had profited in the quarter ended last November after three straight quarterly losses, leading some to believe that it had seen a turnaround along with the broader housing market. Shares were plunging 6.6% to $10.50 on the news.

Darden Restaurants ( DRI), the parent of Red Lobster and Olive Garden, reported third quarter earnings of $1.25 a share, up from $1.08 a year earlier, and slightly higher than analyst expectations for it to post profit of $1.24 a share. Sales grew to $2.16 billion, also beating the forecast $2.14 billion.

The restaurant group said that sales grew 4.1% compared to the period a year earlier at Red Lobster, Olive Garden and LongHorn Steakhouse amid favorable weather conditions, underlying business strength and deceleration in food cost inflation over the year. The company also announced a quarterly cash dividend of 43 cents a share, payable on May 1. Shares were rising 0.4% to $52.01 before the bell.

May oil futures were rising 56 cents to $105.91 a barrel, while April gold futures were adding $9.10 to $1,651.60 an ounce.

The benchmark 10-year Treasury was ahead by 7/32, diluting the yield to 2.26%, while the U.S. dollar index was down 0.3% to $79.46.

-- Written by Andrea Tse in New York.

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