* Import prices drop in January
* UMich data on tap
* German growth beats expectations
* Futures up: Dow 53 pts, S&P 4 pts, Nasdaq 13 pts (Adds quote, data)
By Chuck Mikolajczak
NEW YORK, Feb 13 (Reuters) – U.S. stocks were set for a slightly higher open on Friday, after gains in the prior session moved the S&P 500 within striking distance of its closing record, buoyed by upbeat German growth data and ahead of a reading on U.S. consumer sentiment.
Germany grew 0.7 percent in the fourth quarter, more than double the expected 0.3 percent, pointing to a stronger 2015 for the region’s biggest economy and fueling optimism about growth in the broader euro zone.
“We actually had some better economic news out of the euro zone, obviously it all came from the strength in Germany, but nevertheless it was better,” said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Global Capital in New York.
U.S. import prices tumbled 2.8 percent in January, the largest decline since December 2008 and the seventh straight month of declines.
The preliminary University of Michigan’s February reading on consumer sentiment is due at 10:00 a.m. (1500 GMT). Expectations call for a 98.1 reading.
Equities rallied Thursday after a ceasefire agreement between Ukraine and Russia, with strong gains in technology shares pushing the Nasdaq to a 15-year high. The S&P 500 stands at 2,088.49, just shy of its 2,090.57 record on Dec. 29.
Investors have also been encouraged by signs of progress in Greek debt negotiations. A Greek government spokesman said the country will make every effort to reach a deal at Monday’s meeting of euro zone finance ministers on how to transition to a new support program.
“The big factor in the market is that hopes are building that we are probably looking at some agreement between the euro group and Greece, possibly as early as Monday,” said Cardillo.
U.S.-listed shares of National Bank of Greece climbed 11.9 percent to $ 1.60 before the opening bell.
S&P 500 e-mini futures were up 4 points and fair value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the contract, indicated a modestly higher open. Dow Jones industrial average e-mini futures rose 53 points and Nasdaq 100 e-mini futures added 13 points.
For the week, the Dow is up 0.8 percent, the S&P 500 is up 1.6 percent and the Nasdaq is up 2.4 percent.
J.M. Smucker Co reported a 3.5 percent drop in quarterly profit and said it expected a modest decrease in net sales in the current quarter. Its shares lost 2.1 percent to $ 110 in premarket trading.
Of the 391 S&P 500 companies that have reported earnings, about 71.1 percent have topped profit expectations, according to Thomson Reuters data, while 57.5 percent have beaten on revenue. The earnings growth rate for the quarter is 6.6 percent, down from an 11.2 percent expectation on Oct. 1, but up from 4.2 percent expected on Jan. 1.
(Editing by Bernadette Baum)
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