After moving substantially higher over the course of the previous session, stocks could see some further 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 36 points.
The upward momentum for the markets comes as traders continue to react positively to the Federal Reserve's announcement of its decision to provide further economic stimulus by purchasing additional agency mortgage-backed securities at a pace of $40 billion per month.
Looking ahead, the Fed said it would continue its purchases of mortgage-backed securities until the outlook for the labor market improves substantially.
The central bank also left interest rates at near-zero levels and said exceptionally low rates are likely to be warranted at least through mid-2015.
Buying interest may also be generated by the release of a report from the Commerce Department showing slightly stronger than expected retail sales growth in the month of August.
The report showed that retail sales rose by 0.9 percent in August following a downwardly revised 0.6 percent increase in July. Economists had expected sales growth to match the 0.8 percent increase originally reported for the previous month.
Excluding auto sales, retail sales increased by 0.8 percent in August, matching economist estimates as well as the increase in the previous month.
However, the increase in sales was largely due to a 5.5 percent jump in sales by gas stations, which mainly reflected higher gasoline prices.
A separate report from the Labor Department showed that consumer prices increased in line with economist estimates in August amid a sharp jump in energy prices.
After showing a lack of direction throughout morning trading on Thursday, stocks moved substantially higher in the afternoon amid a positive reaction to the Fed's highly anticipated monetary policy announcement.
The major averages moved roughly sideways going into the close, ending the day sharply higher. The Dow jumped 206.51 points or 1.6 percent to 13,539.86, the Nasdaq surged up 41.52 points or 1.3 percent to 3,155.83 and the S&P 500 soared 23.43 points or 1.6 percent to 1,459.99.
With the strong gains on the day, the Dow and the S&P 500 reached their best closing levels in well over four years, while the Nasdaq reached a nearly twelve-year closing high.
In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region saw considerable strength on Friday following the overnight rally on Wall Street. Japan's Nikkei 225 Index surged up by 1.8 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index jumped by 2.9 percent.
The major European markets have also moved sharply higher on the day. While the French CAC 40 Index is up by 1.8 percent, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index and the German DAX Index are up by 1.4 percent and 1.3 percent, respectively.
In commodities trading, crude oil futures are climbing $1.21 to $99.52 a barrel after advancing $1.30 to $98.31 a barrel on Thursday. Meanwhile, gold futures are slipping $1.10 to $1,771 an ounce. In the previous session, the precious metal jumped $38.40 to $1,772.10 an ounce.
On the currency front, the U.S. dollar is trading at 78.15 yen compared to the 77.48 yen it fetched at the close of New York trading on Thursday. Against the euro, the dollar is trading at $1.3085 compared to yesterday's $1.2989.
by RTT Staff Writer
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