* UnitedHealth profit falls
* Nokia drops in premarket after earnings
* Futures up: Dow 50 pts, S&P 6.1 pts, Nasdaq 12 pts
By Chuck Mikolajczak
NEW YORK, April 18 U.S. stock index futures
advanced on Thursday, indicating the S&P 500 will rebound from a
broad sell-off in the prior session ahead of data on the labor
market and a fresh batch of corporate earnings reports.
Equities have been whipsawed in the past three sessions,
with a 1 percent move in either direction in the S&P 500
each day this week, the first such streak of volatility for the
index since the start of February.
Worries about global demand have sparked sell-offs in
commodities, which in turn have led to weakness in equities.
However, some equity investors continue to use any dips as a
"I'm having a more and more difficult time making the bull
case given what we are seeing around the globe from an economic
standpoint," said Keith Bliss, senior vice-president at Cuttone
& Co in New York.
"At the same time, the reason why you are seeing these
gyrations in the market is you still have the sense from the
'buy the dip' crowd that as long as the Fed is there
backstopping this they don't see real substantial downside
Earnings are expected from 28 companies in the benchmark S&P
index on Thursday, including Dow components Verizon
Communications, Microsoft Corp and IBM.
Morgan Stanley reported a stronger-than-expected
first-quarter profit of $958 million, compared with a
year-earlier loss of $119 million, as its wealth management
business grew, but shares slipped 0.8 percent to $21.30 in
UnitedHealth Group Inc, the largest U.S. health
insurer, said its first-quarter profit had fallen, in part
because of lower government payments for its private Medicare
services and prescription plans for older Americans.
At 8:30 a.m. (1230 GMT), investors will eye weekly initial
jobless claims data. Economists forecast a total of 350,000 new
filings, compared with 346,000 in the prior week.
PepsiCo Inc reported better-than-expected quarterly
earnings, as price increases helped margins and the company
stood by its full-year forecast.
S&P 500 earnings are now expected to have risen 1.7 percent
in the first quarter, up from the 1.5 percent estimate at the
start of the month, based on actual results from 56 companies
and estimates for the rest, according to Thomson Reuters data
through Tuesday morning.
Of the 56 companies that have reported earnings, 66.1
percent have topped analyst expectations but only 48.2 percent
have beaten revenue forecasts.
S&P 500 futures rose 6.1 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 gained 50
points, and Nasdaq 100 futures added 12 points.
Later in the session at 10 a.m.