Wall St set for slight rise on upbeat earnings

Thursday, July 23, 2009

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Stocks were set to open slightly higher on Thursday as quarterly results, including a brighter outlook and a forecast-beating profit from 3M Co (MMM.N), gave investors confidence, ahead of key housing market data, that the earnings season will remain strong.
Earlier on Thursday, U.S. government data showed claims for jobless benefits rose in the previous week roughly in line with expectations, while continuing claims edged lower.
"The (claims) number rose, but it's well within the band of expectations. It's a bit of a dampener, but it's not enough to halt the upward movement in the equity markets," said Peter Kenny, managing director at Knight Equity Markets in Jersey City, New Jersey.
"The momentum is coming on earnings, which are solidly better than expected across many sectors."
S&P 500 futures were up 2.5 points and were above fair value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the contract. Dow Jones industrial average futures rose 15
points and Nasdaq 100 futures gained 3.0 points.
The recent batch of corporate results has lifted stocks, with the Nasdaq closing on Wednesday at an 11-day winning streak, its longest such run since 1996.
3M shares rose 2.8 percent to $66.45 in premarket trade after the diversified manufacturer handily beat Wall Street's profit expectations and lifted its revenue outlook for 2009.
Bristol-Myers Squibb Co (BMY.N) shares jumped 3.5 percent to $20.98 after it reported second-quarter earnings above Wall Street expectations and raised its full-year 2009 earnings forecast. The company announced late on Wednesday it will buy biotechnology company Medarex Inc (MEDX.O), and Medarex shares soared 90 percent.
Shares of eBay Inc (EBAY.O) jumped more than 6 percent in premarket trading after the company reported on Wednesday results that beat market expectations.
Kimberly-Clark Corp (KMB.N) shares rose more than 2 percent to $55.69 before the bell after the maker of Kleenex tissues posted a dip in quarterly profit but raised its profit expectations for the year.
On the downside, shares of United Parcel Service Inc (UPS.N) shed about 2 percent after the world's largest package delivery company reported an in-line quarterly profit on Thursday and gave a lower-than-expected outlook for the current quarter.
McDonald's Corp (MCD.N) shares dropped 2.7 percent to $57.22 after the world's largest hamburger chain posted a lower quarterly profit and lower-than-expected sales.
Shares of Moody's Corp (MCO.N) plunged 10.1 percent to $23.65 following news that Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc (BRKa.N) lowered its stake in the credit ratings provider.
Later on Thursday, other bellwethers, including Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O), American Express Co (AXP.N) and Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O), are expected to report quarterly earnings.
On the data front, the National Association of Realtors is scheduled to post existing home sales for June at 10 a.m. (1400 GMT), with a forecast of 4.84 million annualized unit total versus 4.77 million annualized units in May.

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