Earnings Again in Focus; U.S. Stocks Seen Rising

Premarket futures were forecasting a higher open for stocks in the U.S. Thursday, as traders rifled through a heap of quarterly earnings statements.

Futures for the S&P 500 were up 25 points at 952 and were 23 above fair value. Nasdaq futures were better by 33 points at 1327 and were 22 ahead of fair value.

On Wednesday, stocks sold off into the close after a day of choppy trading, as investors mulled the Federal Reserve's decision to cut its key interest rate 50 basis points to 1%.

Additional intervention to bolster the economy looked to be in the works, as Bloomberg reported that the Treasury Department and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. may devote $500 billion to help avert home foreclosures.

A smattering of corporate earnings were once again occupying traders' attention. Following Wednesday's close, insurance company MetLife ( MET) announced a decline in profit. Fellow insurer Prudential ( PRU) swung to a loss.

Exchange operator CME Group ( CME) said profit declined year over year.

Energy company Murphy Oil ( MUR), on the other hand, reported a substantial increase in third-quarter earnings, but lowered guidance for the fourth quarter.

Ahead of Thursday's trading, telecommunications equipment maker Alcatel-Lucent ( ALU) said its income was in line with guidance and affirmed its full-year outlook.

Traders also expect to hear from oil and gas companies Apache ( APA), ExxonMobil ( XOM) and Marathon Oil ( MRO).

Cell-phone manufacturer Motorola ( MOT), pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca ( AZN) and consumer products maker Colgate-Palmolive ( CL) are also expected to issue earnings reports.

On the merger front, Delta Air Lines ( DAL) completed its acquisition of Northwest Airlines ( NWA).

As to economic data, the Department of Commerce will release its third-quarter gross domestic product figures. Weekly initial jobless claims from the Department of Labor are also due for release.

Crude oil Thursday was gaining 75 cents to $68.25. Gold was rising $13.80 to $767.80.

Longer-dated U.S. Treasury securities were falling in price. The 10-year note was down 14/32 to yield 3.91%, and the 30-year was down 11/32, yielding 4.26%. The dollar was rising sharply vs. the yen, but falling against the euro and pound.

Overseas, European exchanges including the FTSE in London and the DAx in Frankfurt were trading higher. In Asia, Japan's Nikkei and Hong Kong's Hang Seng closed with substantial gains.

( Photo gallery: Trading Faces)

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