* S&P 500 has gained 1.9 percent over past two sessions
* Fourth-quarter GDP may be revised to show growth
* J.C. Penney, Groupon both sink on weak revenue
* Futures up: Dow 16 pts, S&P 2.7 pts, Nasdaq 4.5 pts
By Ryan Vlastelica
NEW YORK, Feb 28 U.S. stock index futures edged
modestly higher on Thursday as investors were reluctant to make
big bets following a sharp two-day rally and ahead of a rash of
* Investors will also be keeping an eye on the debate in
Washington over sequestration - U.S. government budget cuts that
will take effect starting on Friday if lawmakers fail to reach
an agreement on spending and taxes. President Barack Obama and
Republican congressional leaders arranged to hold last-ditch
talks to prevent the cuts, but expectations were low that any
deal would be produced.
* Major indexes posted their biggest daily gains since early
January on Wednesday, putting the S&P 500 back above the closely
watched level of 1,500. Over the past two sessions, the index
has gained 1.9 percent, lifted by strong data and comments from
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke that showed continued
support for the Fed's stimulus policy.
* Wall Street has largely resisted predictions it would
undergo a correction, with the S&P up 6.3 percent so far this
year and the Dow Jones industrial average within striking
distance of an all-time high. While markets suffered steep
losses earlier this week on concerns over European debt, they
have since recovered and are flat on the week.
* Revised gross domestic product data is expected to show
that the U.S. economy grew 0.5 percent in the fourth quarter,
rather than contracted 0.1 percent as initially estimated. The
data is due at 8:30 a.m. (1330 GMT)
* Weekly jobless claims, also on tap for 8:30 a.m., are seen
dipping by 2,000 to 360,000 in the latest week, while the
February Chicago PMI is seen dipping to 54.3 from 55.6 last
* Those reports come in the wake of strong pending home
sales data Wednesday and a proxy for business spending plans
that was more robust than expected, which added to the positive
tone in markets.
* S&P 500 futures rose 2.7 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 16
points and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 4.5 points.
* J.C. Penney Co Inc shares slumped 15 percent to
$18.01 in premarket trading a day after it reported a steep drop
in sales, prompting the department store to overhaul its pricing
* Groupon Inc also reported revenue that missed
expectations, sending shares down 26 percent to $4.41 before the
* Salesforce.com Inc and Gap Inc are on tap
to report results later Thursday.
* With 93 percent of the S&P 500 companies having reported
results so far, 69.5 percent have beaten profit expectations,
compared with a 62 percent average since 1994 and 65 percent
over the past four quarters, according to Thomson Reuters data.
* Fourth-quarter earnings for S&P 500 companies are
estimated to have risen 6.2 percent, according to the data,
above a 1.9 percent forecast at the start of the earnings
* Tim Cook, chief executive of Apple Inc,
acknowledged widespread disappointment Wednesday in the
performance of the tech titan's stock, which is down 16.5
percent so far this year, but urged investors to take a
long-term view on the company.