* Ford, 3M rise after beating forecasts
* Futures up: Dow 40 pts, S&P 5.6 pts, Nasdaq 8.75 pts
* For up-to-the-minute market news see STXNEWS/US (Updates with Ford, 3M earnings)
By Edward Krudy
NEW YORK, April 26 U.S. stocks index futures rose on Tuesday after earnings from Ford Motor Co (F.N) and 3M Co (MMM.N) beat analysts' forecasts on a big day for bellwether companies.
Corporate earnings have been generally strong so far this season, with around three-quarters of S&P 500 companies beating analysts' forecasts, helping to push the Dow industrials up to near three-year highs.
U.S. consumer confidence data for April, to be released later on Tuesday, will be closely watched against a backdrop of rising oil prices and stubbornly high unemployment, which investors fear could hurt consumer spending.
Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Avalon Partners in New York, said gains would likely be slight as investors remain cautious before the Federal Reserve's two-day policy meeting. The Fed will issue a statement and hold a press conference on Wednesday.
"I think the market basically stays on hold until the FOMC (Federal Open Market Committee meeting)," he said.
S&P 500 futures SPc1 added 5.6 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 DJc1 gained 40 points and Nasdaq 100 futures NDc1 rose 8.75 points.
Ford reported its best first-quarter profit in 13 years, driven by strong sales in its home market and demand for more fuel-efficient vehicles, sending its shares up 3 percent in premarket trade.
Industrial and consumer goods conglomerate 3M reported higher-than-expected quarterly profit, helped by sales to emerging markets, and raised its full-year profit forecast. The company's shares rose 1.4 percent.
U.S. consumer confidence for April is due at 10 a.m. (1400 GMT). Economists see a slight uptick in the data over the previous month, but investors are worried that rising oil prices this year could start to dent confidence.
(Editing by Kenneth Barry)