US STOCKS-Wall St set to open flat as investors assess earnings

By Tanya AgrawalMarketsReuters

Wall Street looked set to open little changed on Tuesday as investors assess a host of quarterly earnings from big names and await results from Apple.

Dow component Merck rose 2.2 percent to $62.10 in premarket trading, while Procter & Gamble was up 2.6 percent at $86.34 after reporting earnings above expectations.

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Apple, which is scheduled to report results after the close of the bell, was up 0.37 percent at $118.08.

Annualized third-quarter earnings from S&P 500 companies are expected to have risen 1.1 percent, following four quarters of contraction, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. Of the 120 companies that have reported so far, 78 percent have beaten analyst expectations, above the long-term average of 63.5 percent.

"Investors are looking at earnings which have been okay for the most part," said Andre Bakhos, managing director at Janlyn Capital LLC in Bernardsville, New Jersey.

"It's not just the numbers that investors are looking at but also what the companies are saying especially about the big macro picture."

Investors will also be keeping an eye on consumer confidence numbers for October which are expected to have fallen slightly. That data is expected at 10 a.m. ET (1400 GMT).

S&P 500 e-minis were up 2.5 points, or 0.12 percent, with 94,687 contracts traded at 8:34 a.m. ET (1234 GMT). Nasdaq 100 e-minis were up 9.5 points, or 0.19 percent, on volume of 18,618 contracts. Dow e-minis were up 16 points, or 0.09 percent, with 17,963 contracts changing hands.

The S&P 500 hit a two-week high on Monday, helped by strong earnings, while a flurry of acquisitions indicated corporate America continues to see untapped value in the market.

Global stocks were also higher on Tuesday as upbeat economic data and signs of a revival in inflation pushed up stocks and commodity prices and kept the dollar at a nine-month high.

Oil edged up ahead of the release of U.S. crude inventory data, which in recent weeks has provided bullish surprises, but top-level comments from OPEC members regarding chances of an output cut kept a lid on prices.

The dollar index was little changed at 98.83 against a basket of major currencies, after touching its highest level since early February, last week. A strong dollar could dent the earnings of large multinationals.

Whirlpool fell 6 percent at $163.23 after the home appliances maker's revenue took a hit from a strong dollar.

3M fell 2.2 percent to $167.50 after the maker of Scotch tape and Post-it notes trimmed its full-year revenue and earnings forecasts for the second time.

Caterpillar slipped 1.7 percent to $84.55 after reporting a sharply lower quarterly profit. (Reporting by Tanya Agrawal; Editing by Don Sebastian)