* Red Hat gains after earnings, outlook
* Credit Suisse upgrades Carnival
* Final GDP reading due
* Futures up: Dow 16 pts, S&P 2 pts, Nasdaq 5.5 pts
By Chuck Mikolajczak
NEW YORK, Dec 20 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures advanced on Friday, putting the S&P 500 on track for its biggest weekly climb in two months, as investors appeared confident the economy will grow even as the Federal Reserve scales back its monthly stimulus.
* Investors will eye the final reading of gross domestic product at 8:30 a.m. EST (1330 GMT) for confirmation of a growing economy. Economists in a Reuters survey expect the economy to show growth of 3.6 percent on an annualized basis.
* On Wednesday, the central bank modestly trimmed the pace of its monthly asset purchases, by $10 billion to $75 billion, and sought to temper the long-awaited move by suggesting its key interest rate would stay at rock bottom even longer than previously promised.
* Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said that if U.S. jobs gains continue as expected, the bond purchases would likely continue to be cut at a “measured” pace through much of next year and would probably be wound down “late in the year, certainly not by the middle of the year.”
* S&P 500 futures rose 2 points and were modestly 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 16 points and Nasdaq 100 futures added 5.5 points.
* The S&P 500 has gained nearly 27 percent this year, putting the benchmark index on track for its biggest yearly gain since 1997, largely fueled by the Fed’s stimulus measures.
* Red Hat Inc jumped 13.4 percent in light premarket trading after the world’s largest commercial distributor of the Linux operating system reported third-quarter results above analysts’ estimates and raised its full-year forecast.
* Carnival Corp gained 4.8 percent to $39.97 before the opening bell after Credit Suisse boosted its rating on the stock to “outperform” from “neutral.”
* European equities steadied, consolidating at the end of their best week in eight months, with further gains capped by year-end profit taking and concerns about Chinese money market tensions.
* Asian shares crept higher, but Chinese stocks fell on concerns over a renewed liquidity squeeze as China’s benchmark money market rate climbed to a six-month high despite attempts by the People’s Bank of China to calm sentiment.