* Bank of America profit fell, shares slip
* EBay gains after results beat expectations
* Boeing down after U.S. grounds Dreamliner
* Futures up: S&P 2.8 pts, Dow 8 pts, Nasdaq 5.75 pts
By Leah Schnurr
NEW YORK, Jan 17 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures edged up on Thursday, helped by better-than-expected results from online marketplace eBay, ahead of a busy day of corporate earnings and economic data.
Among several financial companies due to release results, Bank of America reported its fourth-quarter profit fell from a year ago as it took more charges to clean up mortgage-related problems stemming from the financial crisis. Its shares slipped 0.5 percent to $11.72 in heavy premarket trading.
EBay’s shares rose 3.2 percent to $54.60 in premarket trading, a day after it reported holiday quarter results that just beat Wall Street expectations. It gave a 2013 forecast that was within analysts’ estimates.
Solid earnings from Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase on Wednesday helped lift estimates for S&P 500 corporate earnings slightly to a 2.2 percent gain, Thomson Reuters data showed.
But expectations have come down significantly from where they were in October. With investors anticipating a lackluster earnings season, the focus will be on the corporate earnings outlook for the months ahead, analysts said.
“That gives you a bigger picture of where the economy might be headed. I think you have to stitch together all the information and get a true picture of how robust the economies of the world are,” said Kim Forrest, senior equity research analyst at Fort Pitt Capital Group in Pittsburgh.
“We’ve all dismissed what’s going to happen in this fourth quarter. Estimates are pretty low, the companies that can’t step over the lower bar are probably going to get punished.”
Shares of Boeing extended a recent slump after the United States and other countries grounded the new 787 Dreamliner following a second incident involving battery failure. Boeing was down 2.1 percent at $72.75.
S&P 500 futures rose 2.8 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 8 points, while Nasdaq 100 futures added 5.75 points.
Investors were looking to the release of a batch of economic data for fresh trading incentives; these include weekly first time claims for unemployment benefits, housing starts for December and manufacturing activity in the U.S. mid-Atlantic region for January.
Shares of Cisco Systems slipped 1.8 percent to $20.66 after JPMorgan cut its rating to “underweight” from “neutral,” according to flyonthewall.com.
AT&T is considering buying a telecoms company in Europe to offset growth constraints in its home market, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing unnamed people familiar with the company’s thinking.