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U.S stock market indexes appeared headed for a reasonable start on Friday after Thursday's stock market rout hit investor confidence and renewed fears over the health of the financial system.

Stock market futures were slightly higher with about an hour before markets open, suggesting stocks will rise at the start. Futures for the Dow Jones industrial average rose 5 points, to 11,356. Futures for the S&P 500 rose 2 points, to 1255.

In Europe, major stock market indexes were lower on concerns about the health of financial firms and the economy. The U.K.'s FTSE 100 fell 0.6 per cent and Germany's DAX index fell 1.1 per cent in afternoon trading, after Munich Re reported a 48 per cent drop i its second quarter earnings and cut its forecast for the rest of the year. The stock fell 11 per cent. UBS AG fell nearly 8 per cent.

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Part of the enthusiasm in the United States came from apparent relief over the durable goods orders in June, which rose 0.8 per cent, well above an expected contraction of 0.3 per cent. Not surprisingly, defense orders were very strong, but vehicles and parts also rose 1.8 per cent, suggesting that there is some hope for the economy.

However, money management firm Legg Mason Inc. reported a $31.3-million loss in its fiscal first quarter, with revenues down 13 per cent after some of its funds were hit by investors withdrawals. Legg Mason is perhaps best known for Bill Miller, the superstar fund manager who use to beat the S&P 500 consistently but whose winning streak has taken a turn for the worse recently.

In Canada, Loblaw Cos. Ltd. reported that its earnings rose 18 per cent in the second quarter, to $140-million or 51 cents a share. That nudged past expectations from analysts for earnings of 50 cents a share. However, the supermarket chain's revenue rose just 1.5 per cent, slightly missing estimates.

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