US STOCKS-Wall St to open modestly higher after earnings, data

Reuters

* Claims fall less than expected as California backlogcontinues

* Markit manufacturing slows in Oct, affected by govtshutdown

* 47 S&P 500 companies scheduled to report earnings

* Futures up: Dow 46 pts, S&P 3.2 pts, Nasdaq 2.5 pts

By Chuck Mikolajczak

NEW YORK, Oct 24 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks were poised for amodestly higher open on Thursday, indicating the S&P 500 willrebound from its first decline in the last six sessions, asinvestors grappled with a host of corporate earnings and muddledeconomic data.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits fell 12,000to a seasonally adjusted 350,000 but were higher than theexpected 340,000 claims as California continued to process abacklog of applications caused by computer problems.

Financial data firm Markit said its "flash," or preliminary,U.S. Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index fell to 51.1, thelowest since October 2012, from 52.8 in September. The surveywas conducted partly during a 16-day U.S. government shutdownthat economists expect will slow overall U.S. growth slightly inthe last three months of 2013.

With a mixed bag of corporate earnings so far, anyadditional gains in the equity market will likely stem fromexpectations that the U.S. Federal Reserve will continue itsstimulus measures, which have propped up the equity market andeconomy for much of the year.

The S&P 500 has risen 1.4 percent since politiciansin Washington ended a stalemate Oct. 16 to avoid a debt defaultand end a partial government shutdown, but the damage to theeconomy has led investors to expect the Fed to delay scalingback its stimulus for several months.

Corporate earnings continue to pour in, with 47 S&P 500 components expected to report Thursday, includingMicrosoft Corp and Amazon.com Inc after theclose.

"The earnings picture was not supposed to be that great thisquarter and in fact we are seeing that. The thing that isdisappointing is top-line revenue and those are not good signs,"said Keith Bliss, senior vice-president at Cuttone & Co in NewYork.

"So what is going to drive the market from that point isgoing to be Washington policy and Fed policy."

S&P 500 futures rose 3.2 points and were above fairvalue, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into accountinterest rates, dividends and time to expiration on thecontract. Dow Jones industrial average futures gained 46points and Nasdaq 100 futures added 2.5 points.

U.S. stocks fell on Wednesday as shares of heavy-equipmentmaker Caterpillar and semiconductor companies tumbled afterearnings, ending the S&P 500's four-session streak of recordhigh finishes.

Dow component 3M Co reported a 6 percent rise inquarterly profit with higher sales across all its businesses.Its shares edged up 0.2 percent to $123.39 before the openingbell.

Ford Motor Co rose 3.2 percent to $18.07 in premarkettrade after the second-largest U.S. automaker boosted itsfull-year global earnings and margin outlook, helped by animproved forecast in Europe and better-than-expected results inthe third quarter.

According to Thomson Reuters data through Wednesday morning,of the 160 companies in the S&P 500 that have reported earnings,66.3 percent have topped Wall Street expectations, above the 63percent beat rate since 1994 and roughly in line with the 66percent rate over the past four quarters.

On a revenue basis, 53.8 percent of reporting companies havebeaten analysts' expectations, below the 61 percent beat ratesince 2002 but above the 49 percent rate for the past fourquarters.

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