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Futures Pare Gains on Soft Manufacturing as Ford Surges

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Stock futures were paring gains Thursday after a downcast U.S. manufacturing report though the index remained poised to open higher Thursday following the S&P 500's first down day in six sessions.

Futures for the S&P 500 were rising 4 points, or 5.02 points above fair value, to 1,745.75. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were gaining by 48 points, or 51.67 points above fair value, to 15,399. Futures for the Nasdaq were up 2.8 points, or 4.8 points above fair value, to 3,342.8.

The U.S. manufacturing sector grew at its weakest pace in a year in October, according to the Markit Flash U.S. Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index. The index registered 51.1, down from 52.8 in September, and was consistent with only a modest rate of expansion.

"The flash PMI provides the first insight into how business fared against the backdrop of the government shutdown in October, and suggests that the disruptions and uncertainty caused by the crisis hit companies hard," Chris Williamson, chief economist at Markit, commented in a statement.

Despite the tepid U.S. manufacturing number, investors were still garnering some optimism about the global economy thanks to upbeat international results from companies such as Ford (F) and 3M (MMM) and the improvement in China manufacturing data. The flash China Manufacturing PMI came in at a seven-month high of 50.9 in October, up from 50.2 in September, according to HSBC and Markit Economics.

3M shares were rising 0.65% to $124 after the diversified technology company posted third-quarter earnings that topped expectations by three cents at $1.78 a share and better than expected revenue, as all units booked stronger sales across all the geographic segments.

Ford F shares were gaining 3.65% to $18.17 after the automaker reported a record third-quarter pretax profit with continued strong earnings in North America and improvement in every international sector.

PulteGroup (PHM) was adding on 2.94% to $17.17 after the homebuilder beat third-quarter estimates by nine cents at 45 cents a share on stronger-than-expected revenue even as new home orders fell amid the increase in mortgage rates and U.S. debt default fears. Higher revenues for the period were driven by an 11% increase in average selling prices to $310,000, combined with a 9% increase in closings to 4,817 homes.

Amazon (AMZN), the world's largest online retailer, is expected by analysts after Thursday's closing bell to report a third-quarter loss of 9 cents a share on revenue of $16.76 billion. Amazon posted a year-earlier loss of $274 million, or 60 cents a share, which included a loss of 37 cents related to its investment in LivingSocial. Shares were rising 0.37% to $327.95 in premarket trading.

Software giant Microsoft (MSFT) is forecast to post earnings of 54 cents a share in its fiscal first quarter on revenue of $17.79 billion.

In other economic news, initial jobless claims fell by 12,000 to 350,000 in the week of Oct. 19, according to the Labor Department. That's still more than the average economist expectation of 340,000, though the data hasn't been entirely clear since last month due to ongoing processing issues in California stemming from computer systems upgrades.

Meanwhile the U.S. trade deficit widened to $38.8 billion in August from an upwardly revised $38.6 billion in July.

The Labor Department's Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey for August is expected at 10 a.m.

The FTSE in London was up 0.38% and the DAX in Germany was up 0.56%. The Nikkei 225 in Japan was higher by 0.42% and the Hong Kong Hang Seng slipped 0.71%.

December crude oil futures were up 38 cents to $97.24 a barrel and December gold futures were rising $3.80 to $1,337.80 an ounce.

The benchmark 10-year Treasury was down 1/32, raising the yield to 2.507%. The dollar was off 0.11% to $79.18 according to the U.S. dollar index.

U.S. stocks slumped Wednesday, slipping from new highs, as Caterpillar  (CAT), the construction and mining equipment leader, posted earnings that fell short of expectations and China, the world's second-largest economy, revealed a spate of bad business loans.

-- Written by Andrea Tse in New York

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Andrea Tse.>  

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