US STOCKS-Futures point to flat open as market pauses after rally

Last Updated: Mon, May 06, 2013 12:50 hrs

* Dow, S&P coming off all-time closing highs

* Investors looking for next market catalyst

* Oil rises modestly, Middle East supply in focus

* Dow down 1 pt, S&P down 0.1 pt, Nasdaq up 2 pts

By Ryan Vlastelica

NEW YORK, May 6 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures pointed to a flat open on Monday as investors paused after stocks hit record highs last week, with the S&P 500 up more than 13 percent so far this year.

Stocks were lifted on Friday by surprisingly strong jobs data and have been sustained by some strong corporate earnings and accommodating monetary policies that have kept interest rates low.

But with those factors largely priced into the market, many investors are looking for the next catalyst to take shares higher.

"There's such an absence of economic data and news that it looks like it is going to be a boring day, which is fine after Friday," said Oliver Pursche, president of Gary Goldberg Financial Services in Suffern, New York.

"We're flat right now, but markets in general want to go higher since central bank action is trumping everything."

Many analysts say they expect a correction by stocks, which markets have largely avoided this year because traders use any weakness as an opportunity to add to positions.

A string of weak economic data has recently underlined concerns over the global growth outlook, though Friday's report on April U.S. non-farm payrolls was stronger than expected and fueled the gains that took the indexes to record levels.

S&P 500 futures dipped 0.1 point and were slightly under 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 slid 1 point and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 2 points.

Overseas, European shares dipped 0.2 percent as investors took profits following a rally in the previous week. Volumes were light as London markets closed for a holiday.

Brent crude rose 0.2 percent after an Israeli air strike on a Syrian military facility refocused attention on Middle East supply risks.

"The strike has revived a lot of potential pressure, but right now it is a positive that Iran or other countries in the region didn't make a big stink about it," said Pursche. "Commodities seem to be back in a trading range."

Tyson Foods Inc reported a steep drop in its second-quarter earnings, hurt as customers switched to chicken from beef products to save money, though sales rose 2 percent.

Of the 404 companies in the S&P 500 that have reported earnings so far, 68.3 percent have beaten earnings expectations, according to Thomson Reuters data, though only 46.3 percent have reported revenue above expectations. Over the past four quarters, 67 percent of companies beat on earnings and 52 percent beat revenue estimates.

BMC Software Inc rose 0.2 percent to $45.50 in premarket trading after two sources told Reuters that a private equity group made up of Bain Capital and Golden Gate Capital Corp were nearing a deal to buy the company for about $46 per share.

Warren Buffett, the chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway , said on CNBC the U.S. economy was gradually getting better, aided by improvements in sectors like homebuilding.

On Friday the S&P closed above 1,600 and the Dow briefly traded above 15,000 for the first time ever, with a number of bellwether companies hitting 52-week highs. For the week, the Dow rose 1.8 percent, the S&P gained 2 percent and the Nasdaq rose 3 percent in its biggest weekly climb since the first week of the year.

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