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Upbeat Earnings News May Generate Continued Buying Interest

The major U.S. index futures are pointing to a slightly higher opening on Friday following the rally seen in the previous session. Early buying interest may be generated in reaction to the latest earnings news, including results from conglomerates General Electric (GE) and Honeywell (HON).

Overall trading activity may be somewhat subdued, however, with traders looking ahead to the first round of voting in the French presidential election on Sunday.

Recent polls have suggested the race is too close to call amid questions about the impact of yesterday’s terrorist attack that left one French police officer dead and two other people wounded.

With traders reacting positively to the latest batch of corporate results, stocks moved significantly higher over the course of the trading session on Thursday. The tech-heavy Nasdaq reached a new record closing high, while the Dow bounced well off yesterday’s two-month closing low.

The major averages ended the day firmly in positive territory but off their highs of the session. The Dow advanced 174.22 points or 0.9 percent to 20,578.71, the Nasdaq jumped 53.74 points or 0.9 percent to 5,916.78 and the S&P 500 climbed 17.67 points or 0.8 percent to 2,355.84.

The rally on Wall Street was partly due to the positive reaction the latest batch of earnings news, with the Dow benefiting from a sharp jump by shares of American Express (AXP).

American Express spiked by 5.9 percent to its best closing level in well over a month after the credit card giant reported better than expected first quarter results.

Regional bank KeyCorp (KEY) also posted a strong gain after reporting first quarter results that exceeded analyst estimates.

On the other hand, shares of eBay (EBAY) came under pressure after the ecommerce giant reported better than expected first quarter results but provided disappointing guidance for the current quarter.

Verizon (VZ) also moved to the downside after the telecom giant reported first quarter earnings and revenues that came in below expectations.

Positive sentiment was also generated by comments from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who indicated the Trump administration plans to unveil a major tax reform plan “very soon.”

In economic news, the Labor Department released a report showing a slightly bigger than expected increase in initial jobless claims in the week ended April 15th.

The report said initial jobless claims climbed to 244,000, an increase of 10,000 from the previous week’s unrevised level of 234,000. Economists had expected jobless claims to rise to 242,000.

A separate report from the Philadelphia Federal Reserve showed a notable slowdown in the pace of growth in regional manufacturing activity in the month of April.

The Philly Fed said its index for current manufacturing activity in the region fell to 22.0 in April from 32.8 in March, although a positive reading indicates continued growth. Economists had expected the index to drop to 25.5.

Meanwhile, the Conference Board released a report showing a…

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