* Investors focus on Fed comments, indexes near highs
* Facebook rises in premarket, trading could be volatile
* Jobless claims fall slightly less than expected
* Futures: Dow up 1 pt, S&P down 1.4 pt, Nasdaq down 13 pts
By Ryan Vlastelica
NEW YORK, Oct 31 U.S. stock index futures
pointed to a flat open on Thursday, as some strong corporate
earnings gave investors a reason to buy, though they remained
cautious, with indexes near record levels, as they digested
recent comments from the Federal Reserve.
Optimism about earnings was boosted by Exxon Mobil Corp
, one of the largest U.S. companies by market cap, which
reported adjusted third-quarter earnings that beat expectations,
sending shares 0.8 percent higher to $89.53 in premarket
Facebook Inc and Expedia were also stronger
on the day, though general concerns remained about the pace of
revenue growth this quarter.
The Fed said Wednesday it had a weaker growth outlook for
the U.S. economy, though it held its stimulus program steady for
now, as expected. The comments sparked an equity market decline,
with the S&P 500 snapping a four-day streak of gains.
"The market is a little soggy today. Some investors are
viewing yesterday's statement as more hawkish than they would
have liked," said John Brady, managing director at R.J. O'Brien
& Associates in Chicago. Still, "I'm not concerned about the
level of the market, since so long as the Fed is pumping
liquidity in, I'm not sure where else there is to go."
The Fed's stimulus has fueled the market's gains this year,
boosting the S&P by more than 23 percent so far in 2013 to hit a
series of record highs. However, that advance has come amid
weaker-than-expected economic data and an earnings season marked
by weak revenue, leading many analysts to expect a pullback.
S&P 500 futures fell 1.4 point but remained 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 1
point and Nasdaq 100 futures lost 13 points.
The Dow has gained 3.2 percent in October, while the S&P has
added 4.9 percent and the Nasdaq is up 4.2 percent.
In a pronounced consolidation, the S&P could find support at
its 14-day moving average of 1,740.39, which is 1.3 percent
below its current level.
Facebook Inc rose 3.4 percent to $50.70 in premarket
trading, after reporting strong growth in its mobile advertising
business late Wednesday. Trading could be volatile as the
company said it didn't plan to boost the frequency of ads shown
to users, comments that erased the social networking giant's
steep gains after the market closed Wednesday.
Expedia Inc soared 19 percent to $59.40 a day after
reporting third-quarter earnings that beat expectations, while
Starbucks Corp dipped 1.6 percent to $79.50 in light
premarket trading a day after giving a disappointing outlook.
Of 313 companies in the S&P 500 that reported earnings
through Wednesday morning, 68.4 percent topped Wall Street
expectations, above the 63 percent beat rate since 1994 and the
66 percent rate for the past four quarters, according to Thomson
Reuters data. Only 53.7 percent of companies have topped revenue
expectations, well below the 61 percent average since 2002.
In the latest economic data, jobless claims fell by 10,000
to 340,000 in the latest week. Economists had expected 339,000
new claims. Futures were little impacted by the data.
According to two sources familiar with the matter, US
Airways Group and American Airlines are considering
giving up takeoff and landing slots at Washington's Ronald
Reagan National Airport to win regulator approval of their $11