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Stocks muted ahead of U.S. growth figures

By msnbc.com news services

Stocks were muted Friday as investors waited for U.S. growth figures and anticipated an imminent conclusion to Greek debt talks.

EU Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn said talks with private creditors on restructuring Greek debt are "very close" to closing. Athens needs a deal to secure further international aid and so avert a disorderly default when a major bond redemption falls due in March.

Investors are focused on the release of fourth quarter U.S. economic growth figures, which economists expect will show growth strengthened to around 3 percent in the October-December quarter from about 2 percent in the third quarter.

Analysts see a recovery in the U.S., the world’s largest economy, as vital for global growth.

In earnings news, Ford reported a lower-than-expected fourth-quarter profit due to higher commodity costs and losses in its automotive operations in Europe and Asia.

Reuters contributed to this report.