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Premarket: Stock futures lower, J.C. Penney shares surge Add to ...

Markets are softer this morning, with stock futures losing further ground after the U.S. reported weaker-than-expected first-quarter gross domestic product.

The report is the first reading on the three-month period, and while subject to several revisions in the weeks ahead, the 2.5 per cent growth that was reported by the Commerce Department missed expectations for 3.0 per cent expansion. Still, it was considerable improvement from growth of 0.4 per cent in the fourth quarter. And much of the weakness seen in the first quarter was due to a drop in government spending - especially in defence - while consumer spending saw its biggest increase in two years.

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Nevertheless, stocks have seen pretty consistent gains over the last few sessions, and traders are being tempted to take some profits as the week wraps up.

There's a smaller lineup of earnings reports due out today, but there are still several big names reporting results for a quarter that has so far been mixed. Of the companies within the S&P 500 that have already reported results, 74 per cent exceeded profit projections for the first quarter, according to Bloomberg. But, disappointingly, 55 per cent missed sales estimates - a trend that has worsened considerably since the fourth quarter.

Now, here's a closer look at what's going on this morning and what's coming up.

MARKETS:

Equities:

U.S. futures: S&P Toronto 60 -0.4 per cent; S&P 500 -0.3 per cent; Dow -0.3 per cent; Nasdaq -0.3 per cent

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index +0.66 per cent

Shanghai composite index -0.97 per cent

Japan's Nikkei -0.30 per cent

London’s FTSE 100 -0.63 per cent

Germany’s DAX -0.52 per cent

France's CAC 40 -0.92 per cent

Italy's FTSE MIB -0.77 per cent

Commodities:

WTI (Nymex Jun) -0.69 per cent at $92.99 (U.S.) a barrel

Gold (Comex Jun) +0.36 per cent at $1,468.10 (U.S.) an ounce

Copper (Comex July) -0.63 per cent at $3.22 (U.S.) a pound

Currencies:

Canadian dollar up 0.0007, or 0.07 per cent, at $0.9810 (U.S.)

ECONOMIC INDICATORS TO WATCH:

The U.S. Commerce Department said gross domestic product in the first quarter grew 2.5 per cent, below analysts' forecasts of 3 per cent. Cuts in government spending offset private consumption and investment gains.

(955 a.m. ET) The Reuter's/University of Michigan's consumer sentiment index for April. Economists expect a reading of 73.0, up from March's 72.3.

STOCKS TO WATCH:

J.C. Penney shares are up 8.6 per cent in the premarket after hedge fund manager George Soros late Thursday disclosed a significant stake in the retailer of 7.9 per cent.

TransCanada Corp. said the Keystone XL pipeline won't be in service until the second half of 2015 and warned the project's $5.3-billion cost estimate will increase depending on the timing of the permit. It also reported adjusted profit of 52 cents per share, 2 cents below the consensus estimate. Shares are down 0.2 per cent in the premarket.

Brookfield Office Properties Inc. reported it had 33 cents (U.S.) per share of funds from operations in its latest quarter, 3 cents ahead of Street forecasts.

Chevron Corp. reported that net income fell to $3.18 per share in its latest quarter, better than the $3.09 per share expected by analysts. Shares are up 0.08 per cent in the premarket.

Amazon.com Inc. shares are down 3.3 per cent in the premarket after the company's guidance for second-quarter earnings came in below analysts' forecasts.

Yahoo Inc. chairman Fred Amoroso late Thursday resigned from the Internet company's board and will be replaced be Maynard Webb until a new chairman is found. Shares are down 0.4 per cent in the premarket.

Starbucks Corp. late Thursday reported first-quarter results that exceeded analysts' estimates on both earnings and revenues, and it also raised its full-year earnings guidance.

Earnings today also include: Burger King Worldwide Inc.; D.R. Horton Inc.; Honda Motor Co.; Mazda Motor Corp.; Total SA; Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.; Tyco International Ltd.; and Wyerhaeuser Co.

THIS MORNING'S TOP INVESTING READS ON THE WEB:

Historically, any time gold has made a precipitous decline, the gold lease rate has spiked up fairly abruptly and significantly. But, strangely, this didn't happen during this month's big drop.

Silver has been left out of gold's minor recovery from last week.

10 investing rules for the coming bond crash.

Bullish sentiment is currently lower than it has been in more than 85 per cent of all prior weeks during this bull market.

Watch out - stock correlations are on the rise.

In a rarity in the industry, iShares in the U.S. has made new active ETFs dirt cheap.

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The premarket report is constantly updated to reflect the latest news developments and market moves. For instant headlines on breaking economic and corporate news in the premarket, follow Darcy Keith on Twitter at @eyeonequities

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