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US STOCKS-Wall Street set to rise on positive earnings, Big Tech strength

·3 min read

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

* U.S. economy grew at slowest pace in more than a year in Q3

* Caterpillar, Merck rise after posting higher profits

* Apple, Amazon quarterly earnings eyed later in the day

* Futures up: Dow 0.16%, S&P 0.28%, Nasdaq 0.49% (Adds comment, details; updates prices)

By Devik Jain and Shashank Nayar

Oct 28 (Reuters) - Wall Street's main indexes were set to open higher on Thursday, led by gains in Caterpillar, Merck and Ford after upbeat quarterly earnings, shrugging off data that showed U.S. economic growth slowed sharply in the third quarter.

The Commerce Department's advance gross domestic product report showed the U.S. economy grew at a 2% 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.

"There are some concerns on economic growth, but this slowdown is because of the Delta variant and it is clear that COVID-19 is slowly becoming a non factor and there are bets for a strong rebound in the fourth quarter," said Edward Moya, senior market analyst at OANDA, New York.

Market participants have been keeping a close eye on outlook from corporate America for clues on how companies are mitigating these challenges as they report their quarterly results.

Ford Motor Co jumped 9.2% in premarket trading after the carmaker topped third-quarter profit estimates and raised its full-year earnings forecast.

Shares of another Detroit automaker General Motors rose 0.9%, following a 5.4% decline on Wednesday after its results.

Caterpillar Inc added 1.5% after reporting a quarterly profit on high commodity prices, while a beat-and-raise quarter by drugmaker Merck & Co Inc helped its shares gain 1.7%.

Stellar earnings reports 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 the earnings season, according to data from Refinitiv.

Focus will also be on earnings reports from iPhone-maker Apple Inc and e-commerce 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 0.3% and 2.6%.

"For the most part risk appetite is holding nicely as we see mega tech stocks leading the way and is most likely to keep investors satisfied that the economic growth has not absolutely derailed and will get back as Delta issues wane off," Moya said.

At 8:41 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were up 57 points, or 0.16%, S&P 500 e-minis were up 12.75 points, or 0.28%, and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were up 77 points, or 0.49%.

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.

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.

EBay Inc slipped 5% after the e-commerce firm forecast downbeat holiday-quarter revenue. (Reporting by Devik Jain in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel and Shounak Dasgupta)