Stock index futures signal mixed start to March

LONDON (Reuters) - Stock index futures pointed to a mixed open on Wall Street on Friday, with futures for the S&P 500 up 0.3 percent, while Dow Jones and Nasdaq 100 futures were broadly flat at 0956 GMT.

Overnight equity market performance has been mixed, with Tokyo shares edging higher <.n225>, while European bourses were hit by economic growth concerns <.fteu3>.

China's factory growth cooled to multi-month lows in February as domestic demand dipped, weighing on firms already hit by slack foreign sales and underlining the patchiness of the country's economic recovery.

Euro zone manufacturing activity appeared no closer to recovery last month, when a dire performance in France offset a return to growth in Germany, PMI data showed. British manufacturing, meanwhile, shrank unexpectedly.

Absent a highly unlikely last-ditch deal, the $85 billion in cuts across federal government agencies start on Friday after the White House and Republicans failed to reach a deal. The measures are expected to shave at least 0.5 percent off U.S. economic growth.

Groupon Inc fired Andrew Mason as chief executive officer on Thursday, sending its shares up as much as 8 percent in after-hours trade, ousting a co-founder who failed to stop a gradual erosion of its main daily deals business.

Boeing Co will cut hundreds of jobs at a South Carolina plant that makes 787 Dreamliners over the course of this year, but the move has nothing to do with the recent grounding of the troubled jetliner, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.

U.S. government-run mortgage finance provider Freddie Mac earned $11.0 billion last year, the first annual increase in its net income since 2006, the year the nation's housing bubble peaked.

Bank of America Corp BAC.N said in a securities filing on Thursday that the New York State Attorney General was investigating the bank over its purchase, securitization and underwriting of home loans.

Gap Inc's fourth-quarter profit beat estimates, helped by higher comparable store sales in North America and the apparel retailer raised its dividend for this year by 20 percent to 60 cents. Inc reported better-than-expected quarterly sales of $835 million on Thursday, as its cloud-based services continued to sell well despite an uncertain macroeconomic picture. Its shares gained 4.9 percent after hours to $177.50.

Paulson & Co, the largest shareholder of MetroPCS Communications Inc , said it will vote against the wireless service provider's proposed merger with T-Mobile USA, a unit of Deutsche Telekom AG , unless the companies sweeten the deal.

Best Buy Co ended talks with founder Richard Schulze over a deal in which he and a group of buyout firms were proposing to take a minority stake in the firm in exchange for three seats on the board, the Wall Street Journal reports, citing people familiar with the matter.

Friday's bumper data calendar features PCE inflation data for January alongside the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan sentiment index and the Institute for Supply Management's manufacturing index for February.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.dji> fell 20.88 points, or 0.15 percent, to 14,054.49 on Thursday. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.spx> lost 1.31 points, or 0.09 percent, to 1,514.68. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.ixic> fell 2.07 points, or 0.07 percent, to end at 3,160.19.

(Reporting by Francesco Canepa and Toni Vorobyova; Editing by Catherine Evans)

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