Forecast-beating results from big U.S. corporations and expectations of more of the same easy money policies from the Federal Reserve lifted index futures on Wednesday, with stocks set to run higher after the S&P 500 moved above a technical resistance level.
Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke will likely use his first-ever news conference on monetary policy to hammer home the case for a patient approach to withdrawing the central bank's extensive support for the U.S. economy and point to low interest rates in the near future.
Companies continued the parade of encouraging results with names such as Whirlpool Corp , Corning Inc , and Baker Hughes Inc trumping Wall Street's profit expectations.
Earnings are coming in very, very nicely, said Wayne Kaufman, chief market analyst at John Thomas Financial in New York. The valuation of the market is very, very attractive ... it's hard for me to be bearish.
S&P 500 futures added 4.8 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 gained 27 points and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 13.75 points.
In economic news, U.S. durable goods rose more than expected in March and bookings for the prior month were much stronger than initially thought, the government said, pointing to strength in manufacturing.
In Tuesday's session, strong earnings lifted Wall Street to its highest level since crashing to a bear market low more than two years ago. The S&P 500 broke through its previous high for the year where it had faced significant resistance.
Kaufman pointed out that both Dow industrials and the Dow transportation index <.DJT> made new highs in the last session. Dow theory stipulates that both must correspond to confirm an uptrend for stocks.
Whirlpool, the world's largest appliance maker, trumped quarterly profit and sales estimates on cost controls and improving sales in most markets. The shares rose 3.2 percent to $90.70.
Baker Hughes Inc's shares rose 5 percent to $77.75. First-quarter results topped Wall Street estimates as new U.S. oil resources attracted a rush to drill in the most important market for the No. 3 oilfield services company in the world.
Corning Inc's quarterly profit beat Wall Street expectations and it said the earthquake in Japan would only affect its business until the second quarter, sending shares up more than nearly 7 percent.
The Federal Open Market Committee will release a statement on interest rate policy at 12:30 p.m. In a Reuters poll, dealers expect the fed funds rate will remain in the 0.0 percent to 0.25 percent range. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke will hold media briefing at 2:15 p.m.
The dollar fell broadly on Wednesday and looked set to remain pressed due to expectations the Federal Reserve will stick with its ultra-loose monetary policy.
Johnson & Johnson is to buy Swiss medical devices maker Synthes Inc for 19 billion Swiss francs ($21.59 billion). J&J shares fell 1.7 percent to $63.85 before the open.
(Editing by Kenneth Barry)