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Morning Market Roundup: U.S. Futures Up, BofA Back to Its Old Tricks, Unemployment Still High

Here’s what’s important in the financial world this morning:

U.S. Futures: U.S. corporate earnings are back in focus, sending stock futures higher on some strong results.

Wall Street is also expecting some positive jobs and housing numbers.

Dow Jones industrial average futures are up 11 points to 12,968 and Standard & Poor's 500 index futures are up 2 points at 1,380.3. Nasdaq composite futures are up 8.75 points to 2,703.25.

Bank of America:  Bank of America said Thursday that it set aside less money to cover bad loans in the first three months of the year than it has since before the 2008 financial crisis.

The bank said it earned $653 million in the first quarter, or 3 cents per share. That included an accounting charge of 28 cents per share because the value of Bank of America's debt rose.

The bank said it put aside $2.4 billion for bad loans, down from $3.8 billion in the same quarter a year ago and the lowest since the third quarter of 2007, a year before the financial crisis.

Unemployment: The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits dipped last week but remained higher than it's been in recent weeks, according to the AP.

The Labor Department says weekly applications declined 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 386,000. The previous week's data was revised up 8,000 to 388,000.

The four-week average, a less volatile measure, rose 5,500 to 374,750. That's the highest level in three months. But it still 9 percent lower than the level from September.

Profits: Southwest Airlines says it made $98 million in the first quarter, helped by one-time gains on fuel-hedging contracts.

Excluding those, the airline would have lost $18 million - less than analysts had expected.

Revenue rose 29 percent to $3.99 billion, reflecting Southwest's bigger size since it bought AirTran Airways last year.

Struggling cellphone maker Nokia Corp. said Thursday that tougher-than-expected competition pushed it to a net loss of (EURO)929 million ($1.2 billion) in the first quarter as sales plummeted, including for smartphones.

The loss compared with a profit of (EURO)344 million a year earlier, while revenue fell 30 percent to (EURO)7.4 billion from (EURO)10.4 billion in 2011.

Net sales of devices crashed 40 percent to (EURO)4.2 billion, with smartphone sales dropping by more than half to (EURO)1.7 billion, and the company gave a dim outlook.

Holiday sales of the iPhone 4S started to boost revenue at Verizon Communications Inc. in the latest quarter, as subscribers settled in to paying their new monthly bills.

That meant that wireless service revenues grew at their fastest pace in three years at Verizon Wireless. The country's largest cellphone company started selling the iPhone 4 a bit more than a year ago, but sales got a big boost when the 4S model was released in October.

Union Pacific says its first-quarter profit soared 35 percent as the railroad increased prices and collected more fuel surcharge fees.

The Omaha-based company said Thursday that its revenue grew 14 percent to $5.11 billion from last year's $4.5 billion even though the number of carloads it hauled grew only 1 percent.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

One last thing…
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