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* Caterpillar, Merck rise after posting higher profits
* Apple, Amazon quarterly earnings eyed later in the day
* GDP Advance data expected at 8:30 a.m. EDT
* Futures up: Dow 0.22%, S&P 0.29%, Nasdaq 0.55%
By Devik Jain
Oct 28 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures edged higher on Thursday, led by gains in Caterpillar, Merck and Ford after upbeat quarterly earnings, while investors awaited data that will likely throw light on the pace of the economic recovery.
The Commerce Department's advance gross domestic product report, due at 08:30 a.m. ET, will likely show the U.S. economy grew at a 2.7% annualized rate last quarter, its slowest pace in more than a year as COVID-19 infections flared up, upending global supply chains and fueling labor and goods shortages.
Market participants have been closely watching outlook from corporate America for clues on how companies are mitigating these challenges as they report their quarterly results.
Ford Motor Co jumped 10.2% in premarket trading after the carmaker reported a stronger-than-expected third-quarter profit and raised its full-year earnings forecast as strong demand for its trucks helped offset the hit from a global semiconductor shortage.
Shares of another Detroit automaker General Motors rebounded 1.7% from a 5.4% decline on Wednesday after its results.
Caterpillar Inc added 2.8% after posting a rise in third-quarter adjusted profit, while a 55% rise in quarterly profit reported by drugmaker Merck & Co Inc helped its shares gain 1.4%.
Stellar earnings report have driven the benchmark S&P 500 index and the Dow Jones Industrial Average to record highs this week, while bringing the tech-heavy Nasdaq to just 1.1% below its all-time peak hit on Sept 7.
Profits for S&P 500 companies are expected to grow 37.6% year-on-year in the third quarter, up from an expected 29.4% rise at the start of earnings season, according to data from Refinitiv.
Focus will also be on earnings reports from iPhone maker Apple Inc and ecommerce giant Amazon.com after market close on Thursday, wrapping up a largely upbeat reporting season for mega-cap technology stocks.
Google owner Alphabet Inc, Tesla Inc, Microsoft Corp and Facebook Inc rose between 0.2% and 2.9%.
At 6:53 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were up 78 points, or 0.22%, S&P 500 e-minis were up 13.25 points, or 0.29%, and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were up 85.25 points, or 0.55%.
In the run-up to the Federal Reserve's policy meeting next week, market focus has also moved beyond pricing the likely taper of asset purchases this year and onto the timing of an interest rate hike next year.
The central bank's policy hinges on inflation expectations and a labor market recovery, with readings on weekly jobless claims and the Fed's favored inflation gauge, the core PCE price index, also on the radar.
Separately, The Washington Post reported U.S. President Joe Biden is expected to announce on Thursday that Democrats have agreed on a revised framework for his social spending plan that he expects will gain the support of all Democrats.
EBay Inc slipped 5.6% after the e-commerce firm projected downbeat holiday-quarter revenue. (Reporting by Devik Jain in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel)