US STOCKS-Futures flat after China, German data

Last Updated: Fri, Feb 08, 2013 13:20 hrs

* China, German data positive

* International trade, wholesale inventory data on tap

* LinkedIn surges after earnings, outlook

* Futures: Dow off 13 pts, S&P flat pt, Nasdaq up 6 pts

By Chuck Mikolajczak

NEW YORK, Feb 8 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures were little changed Friday following economic data out of China and Germany, though the benchmark S&P index, near five-year highs, was on track for its first weekly drop of the year.

Data showed Chinese exports grew more than expected in January, while imports climbed 28.8 percent, highlighting robust domestic demand, while German data showed a 2012 surplus that was the nation's second highest in more than 60 years, an indication of the underlying strength of Europe's biggest economy.

Comments from European Central Bank President Mario Draghi about the strength of the euro Thursday kindled concern about the euro zone economy and sent U.S. equities lower.

U.S. economic data due out on Friday includes December international trade at 8:30 a.m. ET (1330 GMT) and wholesale inventories for December at 10:00 a.m. (1500 GMT).

Economists in a Reuters poll expect a trade deficit of $46.0 billion versus a $48.7 billion deficit in November while inventories are expected to be up 0.4 percent versus a 0.6 percent increase in November.

"Not enough to move the needle here and the norm of just about anything we put in front of investors this week," said Art Hogan, managing director of Lazard Capital Markets in New York.

The S&P 500 has risen for five straight weeks and is up 5.8 percent for the year. Its advance was helped by legislators in Washington averting a series of automatic spending cuts and tax hikes earlier in the year, as well as better-than-expected corporate earnings and data that pointed to modest economic improvement but no immediate change in the Federal Reserve's stimulus plans.

The index, hovering near five-year highs, has found it tougher to climb in recent days as investors await strong trading incentives to drive it further upward.

"The market has gotten to a point where we are going to need a significant positive catalyst to take us through the next level of resistance, but the good news is we tested the new levels of support right around 1,504 on the S&P multiple times and we've held," said Hogan.

S&P 500 futures were unchanged and slightly below 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 lost 13 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures added 6 points.

LinkedIn Corp jumped 10.6 percent to $137.28 in premarket trading after announcing both blow-out quarterly profits and a bullish forecast for the new year that exceeded Wall Street's already lofty expectations.

According to Thomson Reuters data through Thursday morning, of 317 companies in the S&P 500 that have reported earnings, 69 percent have exceeded analysts' expectations, above a 62 percent average since 1994 and 65 percent over the past four quarters.

Fourth-quarter earnings for S&P 500 companies grew 5 percent, according to the data, above a 1.9 percent forecast at the start of the earnings season.

European shares rose, recovering from a fall the previous session, as strong Chinese data boosted hopes that the global economy will strengthen and fuel demand for equities.

Asian shares also rose after China's data set the scene for economic recovery, although investors opted to book profit ahead of the Chinese new year holidays next week, limiting gains.

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