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US futures rise as weekend nears

Specialist Christopher Carella, center, works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange Monday, Feb. 27, 2012. U.S. stocks pulled back Monday from some of their highest levels in three and a half years. World stock markets fell Friday April 20, 2012 as strong U.S. company earnings failed to calm worries the world's No. 1 economy is struggling to maintain its recovery. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

NEW YORK (AP) -- Stock futures rose ahead of the week's last trading session with profits from so many major U.S. corporations coming in better than expected, and some fresh optimism from Europe as well.

Dow Jones industrial average futures rose 72 points to 12,974 and Standard & Poor's 500 index futures rose 6.7 points at 1,379.2. Nasdaq composite futures rose 10.75 points to 2,694.25. All appear to be headed for a positive week.

General Electric Co. beat expectations Friday, posting earnings of more than $3 billion. While orders for locomotives, aircraft engines and other industrial equipment grew by double-digit rates in the first three months of the year, many investors are concerned about the pace of growth, especially in Europe.

On Friday, a closely watched survey in Germany, the continent's economic powerhouse, showed business optimism rising for the sixth straight month.

Though it was not a big jump, it was still a surprise. Most economists expected the Ifo institute business climate index to decline. The survey also tests optimism six months ahead, and that was positive as well.

The news has not been nearly as positive from other countries like Spain and Italy. Thousands of protesters taking to the streets in Rome on Friday to protest new rules that make it easier for companies to fire employees as that nation wrestles with towering debt.

The Bank of Spain reported this week that the total amount of bad loans on the books at the nation's banks rose to an 18-year high.

Yet even in Europe, U.S. companies appeared to be weathering the economic storm.

McDonald's saw comparable sales growth of 5 percent and operating income growth of 4 percent in Europe. The world's biggest hamburger chain said Friday that profits in the first quarter rose 7 percent in the first quarter.

Shares of McDonald's Corp. rose nearly 2 percent in premarket trading.

Profits at American Electric Power Company Inc. jumped 10 percent thanks to growing industrial demand in the U.S.

And shares of the personal care company Kimberly-Clark Corp. appeared headed for a new all-time high after reporting a 34 percent spike in quarterly profits.