US STOCKS-Futures flat, eyes on Bernanke; Morgan Stanley jumps

Thu Jul 18, 2013 8:14am EDT

* Morgan Stanley surges more than 5 pct after results

* EBay, Intel fall after disappointing forecasts

* Investors await second day of Bernanke testimony

* Futures: Dow up 1 pts, S&P up 1.8 pts, Nasdaq off 2.5 pts

By Leah Schnurr

NEW YORK, July 18 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures were little changed as investors perused the latest corporate results, including a jump in profit at Morgan Stanley, and looked to a second day of congressional testimony by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.

Shares of Morgan Stanley surged 5.6 percent to $28.02 in premarket trading after the bank reported a 42 percent rise in second-quarter profit on higher revenue from trading, underwriting and wealth management.

Analysts' estimates for company earnings have been lowered so much that investors believe the low targets should be easily exceeded. Instead, investors will likely zero in on revenue figures and outlooks.

"It's not really all that hard for companies to beat scaled-back estimates," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Global Capital in New York.

"Most companies are beating estimates but of course revenue is a different story. Revenue growth is probably going to be the negative part of another good earnings season."

IBM raised its full-year outlook and reported earnings that beat estimates, though the company missed on revenue. Shares of International Business Machines rose 1.4 percent to $197.20.

Analysts expect S&P 500 companies' second-quarter earnings to have grown 3.3 percent from a year earlier, with revenue up 1.2 percent, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Shares of eBay slumped 6.8 percent to $53.49 after it said full-year results would be at the low end of the company's forecast range, while Intel tumbled 3.4 percent to $23.32 after the company cut its full-year revenue forecast.

Other major companies due to report include Google and Microsoft.

S&P 500 futures rose 1.8 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 added 1 point, while Nasdaq 100 futures slipped 2.5 points.

With the benchmark S&P up nearly 18 percent for the year, investors are alert to any signs of how soon the Federal Reserve will start to wind down the pace of its $85-billion monthly bond purchases, a key driver of the equity market rally this year.

Speaking before Congress on Wednesday, Bernanke stressed the timeline for winding down the Fed's stimulus program was not set in stone, which helped Wall Street end modestly higher.

Bernanke said the central bank still expects to start scaling back its bond purchases later this year, but suggested that plan could change if the economic outlook shifts.

The Fed chairman will appear for a second day of testimony before the Senate Banking Committee on Thursday.

Opposition to Michael Dell's bid to take his computer company private grew on Wednesday. Holders of nearly 30 percent of Dell stock oppose a $24.4-billion offer by founder Dell and private equity firm Silver Lake, which is scheduled for a vote in Austin, Texas on Thursday morning.

Economic data on tap includes weekly initial jobless claims, manufacturing activity in the mid-Atlantic region for July, and leading economic indicators for June.

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