Stock Futures Rise as Verizon, PepsiCo Top Estimates

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Stock futures were rising Thursday, pointing at a recovery from the prior session's decline on a busy day of earnings and economic reports that began with Verizon ( VZ) and PepsiCo ( PEP) beating analyst estimates.

New York-based Verizon was rising 1.6% to $50.35 after reporting better-than-expected first-quarter earnings as the company activated about 4 million Apple ( AAPL) iPhone handsets.

PepsiCo was rising 1.7% to $80.15 after the snacks and beverages giant posted first-quarter earnings that beat estimates by six cents as higher prices contributed to an increase in profit margins.

Major U.S. stock markets dropped Wednesday after a string of disappointing earnings reports. The recent slide in stocks, said Scott Wren, a St. Louis-based senior equity strategist at Wells Fargo Advisers, has been due largely to a series of worse-than-forecast economic numbers from China, Europe, and the U.S., the Boston marathon tragedy and ricin scare in Washington.

"The minor pullback we have seen so far was largely caused by traders looking for an excuse to sell after the market rallied nearly 18% from last November's lows," Wren said. "We were due for some kind of a correction."

Wren said Wells Fargo Advisers' forward-looking work on leading indicators, industrial production, employment, consumer confidence and business capital spending continues to show movement in a positive direction through the end of this year and into 2014, so "for those willing to take a stand and look past a few bumps in the road, we recommend taking advantage of this minor pullback to put some sideline money to work." The S&P 500 will likely end the year higher from current levels, Wells said in a weekly client note.

Futures for the S&P 500 were up 5.25 points, or 4.59 points above fair value, to 1,551.25. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were up 37 points, or 39.41 points above fair value, to 14,589. Futures for the Nasdaq were up 11.25 points, or 10.47 points above fair value, to 2,785.75.

UnitedHealth Group ( UNH) was off 3.68% to $59.75 after the biggest U.S. health insurer stood by its full-year earnings forecast of $5.25 and $5.50 a share but warned of lower revenues due to the conversion of one very large public sector customer to fee-based benefits from risk-based benefits.

SanDisk ( SNDK) was popping 2.4% to $57.14 after the flash memory chipmaker on Wednesday hiked its full-year revenue projections on expectations of an increase in prices for its NAND memory chips used in smartphones and tablets, and first-quarter earnings that beat on both the top and bottom lines.

Google ( GOOG), the Internet search leader, is expected to report first-quarter profit after the close of trading today of $10.66 a share on revenue of $14.09 billion. Google's sales from ads are forecast by analysts to rise by nearly 20% from the year-earlier quarter. In the first quarter of 2012, Google posted adjusted earnings of $10.08 a share on revenue of $10.6 billion. Shares were up 0.57% to $787.

Microsoft ( MSFT) reports earnings after Thursday's closing bell and Wall Street expects the software giant to post fiscal third-quarter earnings of 68 cents a share on revenue of $20.5 billion.

Morgan Stanley ( MS) reported Thursday earnings of 61 cents a share on revenue of $8.5 billion, beating analysts' forecast for earnings of 57 cents a share on revenue of $8.35 billion as its global wealth management business booked record gains. Still, shares were falling 1.49% to $21.15.

The FTSE 100 in the U.K. was rising 0.5% and the DAX in Germany was gaining 0.59%. The Hong Kong Hang Seng index closed off 0.26% and the Nikkei 225 in Japan fell 1.22%.

The Labor Department reported that initial jobless claims rose 4,000 to 352,000 in the week ended April 13, above the consensus expectation of 350,000, according to Thomson Reuters. The four-week moving average watched for longer-term trends on joblessness increased 2,750 to 361,250.

Continuing claims for the week ended April 6 fell 35,000 to 3.068 million, versus the consensus estimate of 3.075 million.

The Philadelphia Federal Reserve is expected to say at 10 a.m. that its index of general business activity within its regional factory sector increased to 3 in April from 2 in March.

Also out at 10 a.m. is the Conference Board's Index of Leading Indicators, which is forecast to have risen 0.1% in March after climbing 0.5% in February.

The benchmark 10-year Treasury was falling 2/32, lifting the yield to 1.709%. The dollar was down 0.22% to $82.49 according to the U.S. dollar index.

May crude oil futures were rising 86 cents to $87.54 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, while June gold futures were surging $12.20 to $1,394.90.

Written by Andrea Tse in New York

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