Stock Futures Firm, Shrug Off Fed Stimulus Curb Talk

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Stock futures were rising Friday even as the Federal Reserve talked about curbing stimulus, signaling a fourth week of gains for the S&P 500 ahead of the University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment report and the Conference Board's Index of Leading Indicators.

Despite the continuous streak of fresh highs for U.S. equities, trading volumes remain just average.

"No matter where you come down on Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke's handling of monetary policy, you have to feel a little sorry for him," noted Nicholas Colas, chief market strategist at ConvergEx Group in New York. "All this time and money to get stock prices higher and barely anyone notices. Corporate CEOs refuse to spend on new hiring or even some juicy M&A deals to validate the current market levels. There are no news trucks outside the NYSE to celebrate record highs. It's all a bit sad, and I can't help but think of those 'Crying clown' paintings on velvet."

Futures for the S&P 500 were rising 5.75 points, or 5.73 points above fair value, to 1,653.75. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were up 44 points, or 49.78 points above fair value, to 15,256. Futures for the Nasdaq were adding 8.75 points, or 9.16 points above fair value, to 3,007.

Northrop Grumman ( NOC) was rising 1.87% to $80.50 after the defense contractor authorized an additional $4 billion for its stock repurchasing program, saying that it plans to buy back 25% of its outstanding shares by the end of 2015.

At 9:55 a.m. EDT, the University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index is expected to indicate a rise to 78 in May, up from 76.4 in April.

The Conference Board's Index of Leading Indicators at 10 a.m. is forecast to show a rise of 0.2% in April after declining 0.1% in March.

Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank President Narayana Kocherlakota speaks at a panel on monetary policy and financial regulation at the University of Chicago Booth School at 1:45 p.m.

Dell ( DELL) posted earnings on Thursday that came in below analysts' forecasts but the PC maker's revenue topped estimates. Dell's Enterprise Solutions group booked a solid increase in revenue during the quarter, while hardware sales were dismal. Shares were slipping 0.37% to $13.38.

J.C. Penney ( JCP) on Thursday posted a first-quarter loss of $348 million, or $1.58 a share. The adjusted loss for the quarter totaled $289 million, or $1.31 a share, which includes charges related to the retailer's restructuring and management transition. Shares were tumbling 3.41% to $18.15.

Aruba Networks ( ARUN), the wireless communications company, posted a loss in its fiscal third quarter as customers delayed orders because of the weak global economy. Shares were plunging 26.18% to $13.

The FTSE 100 in the U.K. was rising 0.39% and the DAX in Germany was up 0.28%. The Nikkei 225 in Japan finished higher by 0.67%. The Hong Kong market was closed for a public holiday.

The benchmark 10-year Treasury was flat at 1.885% yield. The dollar was up 0.54% to $84.04 according to the U.S. dollar index .

Gold for June delivery was falling $13 to $1,373.90 an ounce. June oil contracts were up 58 cents to $95.74 a barrel.

Written by Andrea Tse in New York

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