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Stocks May Start Last Day Of Q1 On An Upbeat Note - U.S. Commentary

After ending the previous session mixed following an afternoon recovery, stocks may move to the upside in early trading on Friday. The major index futures are currently pointing to a moderately higher open for the markets, with the Dow futures up by 51 points.

The markets may benefit from window dressing, with some institutional investors looking to push stocks higher on the final trading day of the first quarter.

On the economic front, the Commerce Department released a report showing a notable increase in personal spending in the month of February, although personal income rose by less than expected.

The report showed that personal spending rose by 0.8 percent in February following an upwardly revised 0.4 percent increase in January. Economists had expected spending to increase by 0.6 percent compared to the 0.2 percent growth that had been reported for the previous month.

Meanwhile, personal income edged up by 0.2 percent in February, matching the downwardly revised increase seen in the previous month. Personal income had been expected to increase by 0.4 percent.

As a result, personal saving as a percentage of disposable income tumbled to 3.7 percent in February from 4.3 percent in January. With the drop, the savings rate fell to its lowest level since August of 2009.

Not long after the open, trading could be impacted by the release of the Institute for Supply Management - Chicago's monthly report on regional business activity. The Chicago business barometer is expected to slip to 63.0 in March from 64.0 in February.

Reuters and the University of Michigan are also due to release their revised report on consumer sentiment in the month of March, with the consumer sentiment index expected to be upwardly revised to 75.0 from the previous estimates of 74.3.

Among individual stocks, Research In Motion (RIMM) is likely to be in focus after the BlackBerry maker reported weaker than expected fourth quarter results. The company also said it expects continued pressure on revenue and earnings throughout fiscal 2013.

After moving sharply lower over the course of morning trading on Thursday, stocks staged a significant recovery attempt in the afternoon. The major averages climbed well off their worst levels of the day, eventually ending the session mixed.

While the Dow managed to make its way into positive territory, the Nasdaq and the S&P 500 closed in the red. The Dow crept up 19.61 points or 0.2 percent to 13,145.82, while the Nasdaq slipped 9.60 points or 0.3 percent to 3,095.36 and the S&P 500 edged down 2.26 points or 0.2 percent to 1,403.28.

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region turned in a mixed performance on Friday. While Japan's Nikkei 225 Index fell by 0.3 percent, China's Shanghai Composite Index ended the day up by 0.5 percent.

Meanwhile, the major European markets have all moved to the upside on the day. The U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index is up by 0.6 percent, the German DAX Index is up by 0.9 percent, and the French CAC 40 Index is up by 1.2 percent.

In commodities trading, crude oil futures are advancing $0.75 to $103.53 a barrel after sliding $2.63 to $102.78 a barrel on Thursday. Gold futures, which fell $5.60 to $1,654.90 an ounce in the previous session, are climbing $14.50 to $1,669.40 an ounce.

On the currency front, the U.S. dollar is trading at 82.08 yen compared to the 82.46 yen it fetched at the close of New York trading on Thursday. Against the euro, the dollar is valued at $1.3344 compared to yesterday's $1.3302.

by RTT Staff Writer

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