US STOCKS-Wall St set to open flat ahead of data

Tue May 1, 2012 9:13am EDT

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By Chuck Mikolajczak

NEW YORK, May 1 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks were set for a flat open o n Tuesday ahead of data on the manufacturing sector that could offer evidence on the pace of the economic recovery.

The S&P 500 closed April with its first monthly decline since November as economic data pointed to a slowing domestic economy and continued flare-ups in the euro zone highlighted the risks of the region's debt crisis.

Investor focus will be dominated by the United States as a number of European and Asian stock markets, including ones in Germany, France and Italy, are closed on Tuesday for the May Day holiday.

Britain's top share index were up 0.4 percent, led by banks as results from Lloyds Banking Group Plc offered some reassurance, but energy stocks suffered after BP posted worse-than-expected quarterly results.

The Institute for Supply Management releases its April manufacturing index at 10 a.m. EDT (1400 GMT). Economists in a Reuters survey expected a reading of 53.0 versus 53.4 in March.

"We have holidays - Japan, China, and Europe's May Day holiday as well - so I'm not that surprised by the quiet," said Frank Lesh, a futures analyst and broker at FuturePath Trading LLC in Chicago.

"I wonder if we will have a big reaction (to ISM) because of a lack of players at the moment, so it might be a short-lived reaction. It seems like the market is expecting a little bit of weakness and we should be able to take that in stride if that's what it is - a little bit."

S&P 500 futures dipped 0.3 point and were about even with 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 were up 10 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures were off 1.25 points.

Pfizer Inc reported better-than-expected quarterly earnings as cost controls offset plunging Lipitor sales as the cholesterol fighter faced generic competition. The shares dipped 0.7 percent to $22.75 in premarket trade.

According to Thomson Reuters data through Monday morning, of the 297 S&P 500 companies that have reported results, 72 percent topped estimates.

Earnings are expected from 32 S&P 500 companies on Tuesday, including Broadcom Corp, Chesapeake Energy Corp and Fiserv Inc.

The Internal Revenue Service was reviewing issues related to the stakes in thousands of oil and gas wells that Chesapeake gave to its chief executive, according to a regulatory filing.

BP Plc's profit dropped on the back of a fall in production prompted by the sale of oil fields to pay for the Gulf of Mexico disaster. U.S.-listed shares fell 2.2 percent to $42.45 premarket.

Huntsman Corp jumped 10.1 percent to $15.59 premarket after posting profit that nearly tripled on higher prices for its chemicals.

PF Chang's China Bistro Inc surged 30 percent to $51.60 premarket after the restaurant chain agreed to be bought by a private equity firm.

U.S. auto sales in April were expected to remain on pace with the previous month as appetite for new vehicles drove first-quarter demand to its highest rate in four years.

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