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U.S. stocks were headed for modest gains Friday, as investors digested GDP data showing personal consumption spending ticked up to its highest level since 2006.
Stocks managed to log modest gains Thursday, pushing the Dow and S&P to their highest levels since the summer of 2008. The Dow ended 4 points higher at 11,989.83 - just shy of the 12,000 mark.
Stocks are widely expected to continue edging higher for the time being, as more earnings surprise on the upside and the Federal Reserve's bond-buying plan continues to stoke investor optimism. But any unexpected changes could tip the scales.
Economy: The U.S. economy grew at a 3.2% annual rate in the fourth quarter, according to an advance reading on gross domestic product released Friday morning. That's up from 2.6% in the third quarter.
Though the figure missed economists' expectations for a slightly higher 3.5% rate, personal consumption spending rose to its highest level since 2006.
After the market opens, the University of Michigan will release its final report on consumer sentiment in January. Economists expect the index to rise to 73.2, up from 72.7 in the previous month.
Companies: Before the opening bell, Ford (F, Fortune 500) posted a fourth-quarter profit of $6.6 billion - its largest in 11 years. But shares of the automaker fell nearly 7% in pre-market trading.
Honeywell (HON, Fortune 500) posted an increase in earnings that met expectations, and raised its 2011 forecast. It also announced a deal to sell its automotive consumer products business for $950 million. Shares of the company edged 1% lower ahead of the market open.
Chevron (CVX, Fortune 500) posted earnings that easily topped Wall Street estimates, sending shares of the company slightly higher in pre-market trading.
Just minutes before the market closed Thursday, Microsoft (MSFT, Fortune 500) reported its second-quarter net income fell to $6.6 billion.
Amazon (AMZN, Fortune 500) also released quarterly results late Thursday, posting sales that topped Wall Street estimates.
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