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Stock futures point toward another winning day

NEW YORK — Upbeat reports from Alcoa and CSX to kick off earnings season sent stock futures higher today. The market is set to build on a five-day winning streak.

Investors welcomed better-than-expected profits from aluminum maker Alcoa Inc. and railroad operator CSX Corp. They each said volume and sales increased during the second quarter, a welcome sign during a period where most economic reports showed the economy was expanding but at a much slower pace that many traders had hoped.

Alcoa’s earnings reports are closely watched because it is the first component of the Dow Jones industrial average to report results and it has a varied customer base. CSX also provides insight into economic activity because it ships a wide range of products.

Just as important as the second-quarter results, Alcoa said global consumption of aluminum will grow this year by more than it had forecast just three months ago. There have been concerns that the global economy will grind to a halt as many European nations face mounting sovereign debt problems and high unemployment slows growth in the U.S.

Earnings will likely continue to dictate trading over the next few weeks as hundreds of companies release results. Chipmaker Intel Corp. reports earnings after the close today. It is considered a good gauge of the health of the economy since its sales are driven by consumers and businesses buying computers. Retail sales have remained sluggish in recent months amid high unemployment.

European markets rose following the earnings reports. Investors there were brushing off a credit rating downgrade to Portugal’s debt. The debt rating downgrade by Moody’s Investors Service, however, pushed the euro slightly lower.

Ahead of the opening bell, Dow Jones industrial average futures rose 51, or 0.5 percent, to 10,232. Standard & Poor’s 500 index futures rose 6.90, or 0.6 percent, to 1,083.50, while Nasdaq 100 index futures rose 13.50, or 0.7 percent, to 1,833.75.

Alcoa shares rose 43 cents, or 4 percent, to $11.30 in pre-opening trading.

The Dow is set to expand on five straight days of gains. Last week was the best week for the Dow since July 2009. It followed those gains with a modest climb of 18 points yesterday.

If the Dow closes higher again today, it would be the first six-day winning streak since a stretch in late April that sent the index to its highest level of the year. The Dow remains nearly 9 percent below that April high despite the recent gains.

Even though investors are moving into stocks, bond prices remained in a tight range today. That’s because the government is set to auction off 10-year Treasury notes later in the day.

The yield on the 10-year note fell to 3.06 percent from 3.07 percent late yesterday. Its yield is often used as a benchmark for interest rates on consumer loans and mortgages, so investors will closely watch the auction later today to see what yield investors in the freshly auctioned bonds received.

The euro fell to $1.2582 from $1.2598 in New York late yesterday.

Overseas, Britain’s FTSE 100 rose 1.4 percent, Germany’s DAX index gained 1.3 percent, and France’s CAC-40 rose 1.7 percent. Japan’s Nikkei stock average fell 0.1 percent.

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