US STOCKS-Futures up on hopes stimulus to continue; Tesla drops

Last Updated: Wed, Nov 06, 2013 13:20 hrs

* Tesla drops in premarket after results, outlook

* Microsoft narrows CEO search

* Futures up: Dow 62 pts, S&P 8.7 pts, Nasdaq 12.5 pts

By Chuck Mikolajczak

NEW YORK, Nov 6 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures rose on Wednesday on hopes the Federal Reserve will keep its stimulus measures in place longer than anticipated, ahead of key data later in the week on the labor market and economic growth.

John Williams, president of the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank, said Tuesday the Fed should wait for stronger evidence of economic momentum before pulling back on its massive bond-buying program, but should then announce a definitive end to the stimulus.

Adding to speculation about a more dovish Fed, two of the Federal Reserve's top staff economists made the case in new research papers for more aggressive action by the U.S. central bank to drive down unemployment by promising to hold interest rates lower for longer.

Many market participants anticipate that the Fed will hold off on scaling back its $85 billion monthly bond purchases until next year, on expectations the partial government shutdown in early October has dented the economy. However, some feel the door remains open for a tapering of stimulus from December.

"There is no question the market is beginning to price in the possibility the Fed may trim in December with a symbolic amount, a token amount - the market is getting used to that idea now," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Global Capital in New York.

"The fact that the Fed's Williams yesterday said it was not obvious that stocks are overly expensive - that also fuels a little bit of fire here."

Data expected on Wednesday includes the Conference Board's leading economic indicators for September at 10:00 a.m. (1500 GMT). Economists in a Reuters survey forecast a 0.6 percent increase compared with a 0.7 percent rise in August.

Later in the week, investors will look to reports on gross domestic product and non-farm payrolls to assess the chances of a change in Fed policy.

The S&P 500 is up 23.6 percent for the year, putting the benchmark index on track for its best yearly performance since 2003, boosted largely by the Fed's stimulus measures.

S&P 500 futures rose 8.7 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 62 points and Nasdaq 100 futures added 12.5 points.

Tesla Motors Inc shares slumped 11 percent to $157.43 before the opening bell after the electric car maker forecast a weaker-than-expected fourth-quarter profit and posted third-quarter Model S deliveries that disappointed some analysts.

Microsoft Corp edged up 0.8 percent to $36.93 in premarket trading after sources familiar with the matter said the world's largest software maker had narrowed its list of external candidates to replace Chief Executive Steve Ballmer to about five people, including Ford Motor Co chief Alan Mulally and former Nokia CEO Stephen Elop.

As earnings season winds down, S&P companies expected to report include Qualcomm Inc and Whole Foods Market Inc .

According to Thomson Reuters data, of 404 companies in the S&P 500 that reported results through Tuesday morning, 69.6 percent beat Wall Street's expectations, above the long-term average of 63 percent. However, just 53.3 percent beat revenue forecasts, below the 61 percent average since 2002.

European shares edged higher, setting fresh five-year highs, as a batch of bullish reports helped the market regain ground lost in the previous session.

Most Asian markets were little changed amid uncertainty over monetary policy in the United States and Europe, though Japanese stocks rose, thanks to gains in major car makers.

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