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US STOCKS-Wall St set to open higher ahead of Yellen speech; spotlight on earnings

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·3 min read
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(For a Reuters live blog on U.S., UK and European stock markets, click LIVE/ or type LIVE/ in a news window.)

* Yellen speech begins at 10 a.m. ET

* Bank of America, Goldman Sachs rise on upbeat earnings

* Halliburton up after higher sequential profit

* Futures: Dow and S&P rise 0.68%, Nasdaq up 0.79% (Adds comment; updates market prices)

By Devik Jain and Medha Singh

Jan 19 (Reuters) - Wall Street was set to open higher on Tuesday after upbeat earnings from big U.S. banks and Halliburton, while investors awaited a speech from U.S. Treasury Secretary nominee Janet Yellen that is expected to advocate hefty fiscal spending.

Shares of Goldman Sachs Group Inc added 2.5% as its fourth-quarter profit more than doubled, dwarfing estimates after another blowout performance at its trading and underwriting business.

Bank of America also topped fourth-quarter profit estimates and joined JPMorgan, Citigroup Inc and Wells Fargo & Co in releasing some cash reserves to cover for coronavirus-driven loan losses, underscoring its confidence in the economy.

Its shares, however, dropped 1.6% after a sharp climb over the last two weeks.

"The bank earnings is coming in better than expected and we see investors respond favorably to the numbers," said Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at CFRA Research.

Earnings for S&P 500 companies are likely to decline 7.8% in the fourth quarter of 2020 from a year ago, but are expected to rebound in 2021, with a gain of 16.7% forecast for the first quarter, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Wall Street's main indexes dropped on Friday as investors booked profits after a recent rally to record highs on hopes of speedy economic recovery fueled by a hefty fiscal stimulus package and vaccine distribution.

Yellen is set to testify to the Senate Finance Committee, starting at 10 a.m. ET (1500 GMT), that the government must "act big" with its next coronavirus aid plan.

President-elect Joe Biden, who will be sworn into office on Wednesday, outlined a $1.9 trillion stimulus package proposal last week to jump-start the economy.

"Yellen did encourage that the U.S. should act on this coronavirus relief bill. It seems it's the kind of package that Wall Street is concluding will likely to pass both houses of the Congress and therefore be put in to work pretty quickly." Stovall added.

Meanwhile, world stocks got a lift earlier in the day by data showing China's economy was one of the few to grow over 2020, and actually picked up speed as the year closed.

At 08:40 a.m. ET, Dow E-minis were up 208 points, or 0.68%, S&P 500 E-minis were up 25.5 points, or 0.68%. Nasdaq 100 E-minis were up 101.5 points, or 0.79%.

Tesla Inc gained 1.6% after Jefferies raised its earnings estimates ahead of the electric-car makers' fourth-quarter results next week.

Boeing Co added 1.5% as Canada said it would lift a near two-year flight ban on its 737 MAX following two fatal crashes involving the model while a final clearance from Europe to resume flying the jet is expected next week.

Halliburton Co rose 2.7% after it posted a better-than-expected fourth-quarter profit, buoyed by cost cuts and a recovery in demand for oilfield equipment and services after last year's industry slump. (Reporting by Devik Jain and Medha Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Bernard Orr and Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)