Before the bell: Stocks set for a lower open as investors watch government's plans

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U.S. stocks were set for a mixed start as early Friday morning, S&P 500 and Dow Industrials futures were a little higher, while Nasdaq futures were negative. From the beginning of the week, Wall Street has been watching the unfolding plans for bailing out the financial market, stimulating the economy and aiding the housing market. While the financial bailout plan has been poorly received due to lack of details, the $790 billion economic stimulus package still hasn't passed, not to mention investors are becoming more and more skeptical as to its success.

Update 7:50 am: Stocks are set for a higher open as all three stock index futures turned positive.

Update 8:50 am: Stock market futures all turned negative as stocks are now set for a lower start without much in the way of news.

On Thursday, the reported government plan to subsidize troubled homeowners' mortgage payments impressed investors the most and helped stocks recover from a sharp sell-off.



Meanwhile, as more details about the plan became known, investors seemed less happy with the help homeowners will get. According to the AP, the plan is to lower mortgage rates for borrowers on the verge of foreclosure. When the Federal Reserve reports that the recession has cut many Americans' net worth by about 20% as the value of homes, stock portfolios and businesses have plummeted, the dismay with the housing plan may be understandable.

Over the weekend economic leaders from the G-7 countries will meet, and investors hope they will come up with clear, specific ways to repair the global financial system.

One really good piece news is coming out of China as its economy is showing signs of recovery as the 4 trillion yuan ($585 billion) stimulus package is taking effect. Indeed, Asian stocks rose for the first time in five days on optimism government efforts will finally end the global financial crisis and recession. European markets also advanced in early trading.

As for bonds and commodities, Treasuries headed for a weekly gain Friday as confidence in Obama's $789 billion stimulus plan to actually stimulate the economy eroded. For the same reason, gold futures rose Thursday for a third straight session, ending at the highest level in seven months near $950 an ounce. And oil rose back above $34 a barrel Friday, but that's after crude traded near five-year lows overnight, on demand concerns as the worst U.S. recession in decades could be deepening.

One economic indicator is due out today at 10:00 am Eastern, February's University of Michigan Preliminary Consumer Sentiment, which is expected to further decline.

PepsiCo (NYSE: PEP) is due to report earnings before the opening bell.

Stocks in the news: PEP, TM, NSANY, ANF, CAL, MSFT, SBUX, RTP ...
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