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Sluggish Trading Expected At Open - U.S. Commentary

Wall Street looks poised for some more sluggish action at the start of trading on Friday. This would continue the caution that has marked the last several days.

Stocks lost ground on Thursday, after showing a lack of direction throughout the previous session. Renewed worries about the global economic outlook weighed on the markets, although another batch of upbeat U.S. data helped to limit the downside.

Some additional economic news is on tap for later this morning. The government is set to release data on sales of newly-built homes for February. The measure is expected to rise for the month.

Meanwhile, Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke is set to speak this afternoon. The Fed chief will appear at a conference on central banking.

In corporate news, a handful of earnings reports are making headlines this morning.

Darden Restaurants (DRI) said its quarterly profit rose 8 percent from last year. The bottom line at the owner of the Red Lobster and Olive Garden restaurant chains was boosted by sales that climbed to $2.2 billion from about $2 billion last year.

Micron Technology (MU) announced a loss for its latest quarter, reversing a profit posted in the same period last year. Sales and margins at the memory chip maker both deteriorated.

Nike (NKE) revealed a quarterly profit that rose 7 percent from last year. The athletic shoe maker said its revenue jumped 15 percent to nearly $5.9 billion.

IT services company Accenture (ACN) reported a stronger-than-expected rise in its quarterly profit. The company benefited from revenue growth across all operating groups. Accenture also raised its expectations for the full year.

Overseas markets are signaling caution going into the start of Wall Street's session. In Europe, France is down 0.8 percent. Germany is lower by 0.7 percent.

Asian stocks generally finished the day lower. Japan and China both posted losses of about 1.1 percent.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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