Published October 16, 2012
NEW YORK – Stock index futures edged higher on Tuesday as investors awaited a number of key company earnings results, including from Goldman Sachs, for market direction.
The quarterly earnings season thus far has been mixed, with some early pessimistic results giving the S&P 500 its worst week since June last week. However, strong results from Citigroup sparked a rally on Monday.
UnitedHealth Group Inc early Tuesday reported earnings that were higher than a forecast the company gave earlier this month. The health insurer also raised its full-year profit outlook.
Four other Dow components are also scheduled to report quarterly earnings Tuesday, including Coca-Cola Co , Johnson & Johnson , Intel Corp and IBM .
Still, the most anticipated earnings report Tuesday may be Goldman Sachs , will could indicate whether the trend for financials will be strong, like Citi's results indicated, or weak, as last week's reports from JPMorgan and Wells Fargo suggested.
Profits of S&P 500 companies are seen dropping 2.3 percent this quarter from a year ago, according to Thomson Reuters data. With about 8 percent of S&P companies having reported, 58 percent have topped profit expectations - less than the average beat rate of 67 percent for the past four quarters.
S&P 500 futures rose 2.7 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 added 23 points and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 6.75 points.
The S&P 500 index is up about 5.8 percent so far this quarter, and both the Dow and S&P have recently found support at their 50-day moving averages. Last week's declines had left each index on the precipice of breaking below those levels.
Intel and IBM report after the market closes and are among the first major reads into the tech sector, which has been marked by a number of profit warnings, including from Intel. Late Monday, Microchip Technology Inc said second-quarter revenue was likely below its earlier estimates due to soft demand.
While earnings have been the primary driver for equities in recent sessions, overshadowing some strong economic indicators, investors will also continue to keep an eye on Europe ahead of a meeting of European leaders later this week. European shares <.FTEU3> rose 0.5 percent on growing hopes the meeting would advance plans to tackle debt in Spain and Greece.
Stocks climbed on Monday, rebounding from last week's losses after Citigroup's earnings and retail sales sharply exceeded expectations.