U.S. Stocks To Open Higher With Inflation Subdued

NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- U.S. stocks are set to open slightly higher Friday, with portfolio managers making last-minute purchases as the first half of the trading year winds to a close, with Apple Inc. likely to get a boost from the debut of its iPhone.

The futures contract for the Dow Jones Industrial Average last was 3 points higher at 13,520.

Futures contracts for the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq 100 last were 7.6- points higher at 1,519.80 and 6.2 points higher at 1,961.5.

Stocks finished on a mixed note Thursday, after the Federal Reserve held interest rates at 5.25% for the eighth straight time and said it wasn't persuaded that inflation's entirely under control. The Dow industrials fell 5.5 points and the S&P 500 declined 0.6 of a point, while the Nasdaq Composite rose 3 points.

On Friday the market's attention will turn to the upcoming second-quarter earnings season, which will get going in earnest in the second week of July.

"With the FOMC meeting behind us, rates should calm down and investors should start to focus on second quarter earnings results," said Marc Pado, chief U.S. market strategist at Cantor Fitzgerald. "Today is the last day of the quarter."

There was limited reaction to a Commerce Department report that core consumer prices increased just 0.1% in May, in line with economists' expectations, leaving core inflation within the Federal Reserve's comfort zone for a second straight month.

Core prices -- which exclude food and energy costs -- are up just 1.9% in the past 12 months, just inside the central bank's unofficial 1% to 2% target range. It's the smallest year-over-year gain in the core personal consumption price index since March 2004. Core inflation had risen 2% in the year ending in April.

There's more data ahead. The University of Michigan's consumer sentiment survey for June is due around 9.45 a.m. Eastern. The MarketWatch forecast, based on a poll of economists, is for a headline reading of 84.1, which would be down from 88.3 in May.

The Chicago purchasing managers index for this month is due at 10 a.m. Eastern. MarketWatch expects a reading of 57.5%, which would be a decline from 61.7% last month.

Stocks on the march

Shares of Apple Inc. last were 0.7% higher at $121.36 in premarket electronic trade. The company's iPhone will appear in some stores today.

Research In Motion was almost 20% higher in Frankfurt trade after the Blackberry maker announced a 76% gain in revenue and a 73% rise in profit for the most recent quarter. The stock last was up 19% at $197.78 in premarket action.

Palm Inc. last was off 4% at $15.85. The maker of the Treo smart phone reported a 43% drop in quarterly profit.

Accenture Ltd. raised its profit outlook for the year and could trend higher after the market opens.

Other markets

Treasurys rallied after the latest consumer price report depicted inflation as benign. The fixed income market is highly sensitive to inflation because it eats into the value of assets and increases pressure on the Federal Reserve to keep rates higher.

The 10-year benchmark Treasury note last was up 10/32 at 95-21/32 with a yield of 5.064%.

The dollar was mixed in the wake of Thursday's Fed decision to leave the fed funds rate unchanged at 5.25% and issue a policy statement that emphasized the central bank's continuing preoccupation with inflation.

The dollar last was unchanged at 123.27 yen, as the euro rose 0.5% to $1.3507.

Gold futures rose slightly, extending their prior-session gains, underpinned by mixed sentiment in the dollar and a rise in crude-oil prices. Gold for August delivery gained $1.30 at $651.70 an ounce on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Crude futures were higher too. The front-month contract last was up 0.8% at $70.12 a barrel, bolstered by concerns about supply.

By Leslie Wines