NEW YORK – S&P 500 index futures pointed to a higher stock market open on Wednesday as Bank of America rose after reporting a profit and U.S. housing starts rose to the fastest pace in more than four years last month.
But the Dow and Nasdaq index futures were lower, pressured by weak tech company results.
Shares of Bank of America Corp , the second-largest U.S. bank, rose 1.8 percent to $9.63 in volatile premarket trading after reporting breakeven results that topped estimates for a loss.
Citigroup and Goldman Sachs this week also indicated improvement in the financial sector by posting strong results. However, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo disappointed investors.
Nasdaq 100 futures fell as tech shares were pressured a day after both Intel Corp and IBM reported disappointing quarterly results, sending the stocks sharply down before the opening bell.
"There was a lot of pessimism going into earnings season, but overall I'm happy with what I'm seeing. Things seem to be improving for banks," said Scott Schermerhorn, chief investment officer at Granite Investment Advisors in Concord, New Hampshire.
"IBM and Intel were weak, but it isn't surprising to see such globally exposed companies hit by weakness in Europe and emerging markets."
Homebuilder Toll Brothers climbed 1.2 percent in premarket trading after the housing starts data while D.R. Horton gained 1.1 percent.
S&P 500 futures rose 3.9 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 rose 15 points while Nasdaq 100 futures fell 2.75 points.
Equities are coming off their best two-day advance in a month, a rise of 1.8 percent. Those gains came as some disappointments early in the earnings season were offset by strong results from such bellwethers as Johnson & Johnson .
Still, the first report cards from companies in the tech sector suggested reasons for caution. Late Tuesday, Intel gave a weak fourth-quarter revenue outlook while IBM posted third-quarter revenue that came in under expectations.
The tech sector is closely monitored for what it reveals about business spending. Intel fell 4.1 percent to $21.43 before the open while IBM lost 3.7 percent to $203.15. Both firms are Dow components.
Earnings for S&P 500 components are seen falling 2.3 percent from a year ago, with the main culprit the slowing global economy. But the latest forecast does mark a slight improvement from estimates last week, according to Thomson Reuters data.
St. Jude Medical Inc fell 6.8 percent after posting a drop in its earnings, while Textron's earnings missed expectations, though it raised its full-year profit view. Textron fell 4 percent in light premarket trading.
ASML agreed to buy Cymer , its key supplier of a light-based technology crucial to making a new generation of much smaller chips, for $2.5 billion. Cymer surged 64 percent to $78.35 before the bell.
While earnings have been the primary driver for shares, Europe's debt crisis continues to remain in focus. Shares in Europe <.FTEU3> rose 0.3 percent.
Stocks closed 1 percent higher on Tuesday, lifted by strong results from J&J and Goldman.
(Editing by Kenneth Barry)