* Tesla drops in premarket after results, outlook
* Microsoft narrows CEO search
* Ralph Lauren climbs after earnings, dividend boost
* Futures up: Dow 57 pts, S&P 8 pts, Nasdaq 12 pts
By Chuck Mikolajczak
NEW YORK, Nov 6 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks were set for a higher open on Wednesday on hopes the Federal Reserve will keep its stimulus measures in place longer than anticipated, ahead of key data later in the week on the labor market and economic growth.
John Williams, president of the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank, said Tuesday the Fed should wait for stronger evidence of economic momentum before pulling back on its massive bond-buying program, but should then announce a definitive end to the stimulus.
Adding to speculation about a more dovish Fed, two of the Federal Reserve’s top staff economists made the case in new research papers for more aggressive action by the U.S. central bank to drive down unemployment by promising to hold interest rates lower for longer.
Many market participants anticipate that the Fed will hold off on scaling back its $85 billion monthly bond purchases until next year, on expectations the partial government shutdown in early October has dented the economy. However, some feel the market will be able to absorb a tapering of stimulus in December.
“We actually got to a point in time in August which was very healthy when we bounced off the lows and realized that if tapering happens it’s not necessarily bad news,” said Art Hogan, managing director at Lazard Capital Markets in New York.
“To the extent that what has changed about the Fed - interest rates may be lower longer, even in an environment of tapering quantitative easing, which is, at best, a neutral, but it’s not a negative.”
Data expected on Wednesday includes the Conference Board’s leading economic indicators for September at 10:00 a.m. (1500 GMT). Economists in a Reuters survey forecast a 0.6 percent increase compared with a 0.7 percent rise in August.
Later in the week, investors will look to the delayed reports on gross domestic product and non-farm payrolls to assess the chances of a change in Fed policy.
The S&P 500 is up 23.6 percent for the year, putting the benchmark index on track for its best yearly performance since 2003, boosted largely by the Fed’s stimulus measures.
S&P 500 futures rose 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 57 points and Nasdaq 100 futures added 12 points.
Tesla Motors Inc shares slumped 11 percent to $157.43 before the opening bell after the electric car maker forecast a weaker-than-expected fourth-quarter profit and posted third-quarter Model S deliveries that disappointed some analysts.
Microsoft Corp edged up 0.8 percent to $36.93 in premarket trading after sources familiar with the matter said the world’s largest software maker had narrowed its list of external candidates to replace Chief Executive Steve Ballmer to about five people, including Ford Motor Co chief Alan Mulally and former Nokia CEO Stephen Elop.
As earnings season winds down, S&P companies expected to report include Qualcomm Inc and Whole Foods Market Inc .
Ralph Lauren Corp shares advanced 3.3 percent to $176.77 in premarket after the designed clothing company raised the lower end of its full-year sales forecast on the expectation of strong gains during the holiday quarter, and increased its dividend.
According to Thomson Reuters data, of 404 companies in the S&P 500 that reported results through Tuesday morning, 69.6 percent beat Wall Street’s expectations, above the long-term average of 63 percent. However, just 53.3 percent beat revenue forecasts, below the 61 percent average since 2002.