Stock Futures Rise as IBM Beats, Jobless Claims Drop

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Stock futures were edging higher Thursday after a batch of better-than-expected earnings reports led by IBM ( IBM) combined with a dip in jobless claims bolstered the economic outlook prior to a second day of congressional testimony from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.

Futures for the S&P 500 were up 4.25 points, or 4.29 points above fair value, to 1,679.75. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were up 18 points, or 54.48 points above fair value, to 15,458. Futures for the Nasdaq were up 2.5 points, or 3.17 points above fair value, to 3,081.75.

The Fed chairman is scheduled to appear 10:30 a.m. New York time before the Senate Banking Committee in Washington.

IBM was gaining 1.76% to $197.98 after the company beat Wall Street's second-quarter earnings estimates on Wednesday and raised its guidance despite missing analysts' top-line forecasts. Excluding the impact of a $1 billion work force rebalancing charge incurred in the quarter, the tech giant earned $3.91 a share, a year-over-year increase of 8%. IBM, however, brought in revenue of $24.9 billion, down 3% over the same period, or 1% adjusted for currency. Analysts were looking for earnings of $3.77 a share on sales of $25.37 billion.

IBM CEO Ginni Rometty said the company was confident of achieving its increased 2013 operating EPS expectation of at least $16.90, excluding the $1 billion work force rebalancing charge. Previously, IBM had forecast operating EPS of at least $16.70.

Morgan Stanley ( MS) was adding nearly 4% to $27.60 after the bank reported that profits rose 69% in the second quarter on higher revenue on the back of strong equities trading results and a solid performance in a difficult quarter for fixed income. Equity sales and trading net revenues of $1.8 billion, up from $1.3 billion a year ago.

UnitedHealth ( UNH) was rising 2.37% to $67.80 after the health insurer beat second-quarter expectations by 15 cents at $1.40 a share thanks to a sharp improvement in enrollment, and hiked the lower end of its full-year earnings outlook.

Initial jobless claims fell 24,000 to 334,000 in the week ended July 13, according to the Labor Department. This print was better than expected, falling below the average economist expectation of 345,000, though seasonal auto shutdown issues have made the interpretation of jobless claims a bit more challenging recently. Still the four-week moving average, which smooths out volatility and is indicative of longer-term labor market trends, was also down 5,250 at 346,000, which points the market to possibilities that the Fed could be moving closer towards bond tapering in September.

At 10 a.m., the general business conditions index of the Philadelphia Fed's Business Outlook Survey gauging manufacturing conditions within the Philadelphia Federal Reserve district is expected to have declined to 7.8 in July from 12.5 in June.

The Conference Board's Index of Leading Indicators is forecast to have increased 0.3% in June, up from 0.1% in May. The report is due at 10 a.m.

The benchmark 10-year Treasury was falling 3/32, raising the yield to 2.503%.The dollar was rising 0.25% to $82.92 according to the U.S. dollar index.

Intel ( INTC) was slumping 2.77% to $23.49 after the world's largest chipmaker missed second-quarter earnings estimates and revised guidance lower. Intel reported on Wednesday earnings of 39 cents a share on revenue of $12.81 billion; analysts were calling for earnings of 39 cents to 40 cents a share on revenue of $12.9 billion.

For the third quarter, Intel said it expects revenue to be $13.5 billion, plus or minus $500 million. Gross margins would be about 61%, plus or minus a couple of percentage points. For the full year, Intel revised revenue guidance lower, saying it now expects it to be "approximately flat year-on-year, down from prior expectations of low single digit percentage increase."

American Express ( AXP) was falling behind by 1.5% to $75.65 after the credit card issuer's second-quarter revenue matched expectations and earnings beat by five cents at $1.27 a share. Shares of credit card issuers have been selling off since Wednesday on news that the European Commission plans to implement strict limits on credit card processing fees.

Verizon Communications ( VZ) was dipping 0.63% to $50.42 after the telecom behemoth reported second quarter revenues that matched expectations and earnings that topped Wall Street's target by a penny at 73 cents a share as investments in its wireless, FiOS, and global networks led to positive returns.

Google ( GOOG) is expected after the closing bell to post earnings of $10.78 a share in the second quarter on revenue of $14.42 billion. Investors will be monitoring cost-per-clicks on Google, as the search giant continues to generate most of its revenue through advertising. Shares were trading sideways at $918.80.

Microsoft ( MSFT) is expected by Wall Street to post fiscal fourth-quarter earnings Thursday after the close of 75 cents a share on revenue of $20.73 billion. In the same quarter last year, Microsoft posted adjusted earnings 73 cents a share on revenue of $18.06 billion. Shares were flat at $35.75.

The Hong Kong Hang Seng closed off 0.12% and the Nikkei 225 in Japan finished ahead by 1.32%. The FTSE 100 in London was rising 0.77%, while the DAX in Germany was up 0.31%.

August crude oil futures were rising 60 cents to $107.08 a barrel, while August gold futures were gaining $6 to $1,283.50 an ounce.

Written by Andrea Tse in New York

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