US STOCKS-Wall St to open slightly higher as momentum holds

Last Updated: Tue, May 14, 2013 13:20 hrs

* Sony jumps after Loeb calls for spinning off entertainment unit

* Tesla Motors jumps in premarket, extending recent gains

* U.S. shares of Nokia drop after unveiling new phone

* Indexes: Dow up 3 pts, S&P up 1.2 pt, Nasdaq off 0.25 pt

By Chuck Mikolajczak

NEW YORK, May 14 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks were poised for a slightly higher open on Tuesday as investors adjust to slow but steady growth in the economy, which should keep the market's upward momentum after the Dow and S&P 500 hit a succession of record highs.

The market has been trading sideways over the past three sessions, showing a gain of 0.07 percent as the winding down of the quarterly earnings season and a light economic calendar have left investors without a strong catalyst for further gains.

Still, the S&P is up more than 14 percent so far this year, propelled by some earnings that beat lowered estimates and the Federal Reserve's easy monetary policy designed to stimulate the economy.

While some analysts argue the long-term trend remains positive, many see momentum waning in the near term in the absence of positive catalysts. Volume has been lighter than average, and volatility has been low in recent days.

"Earnings season is pretty well done, we don't really have any big economic points on the horizon," said Peter Jankovskis, co-chief investment officer at OakBrook Investments LLC in Lisle, Illinois.

"We've finally settled in. People realize the world is not melting down. Growth isn't surging either, but it's growth and the market is adapting to that."

Wall Street ended little changed on Monday as investors paused following three weeks of gains, though strong retail sales data helped to limit losses.

With the S&P 500 at record highs, investors are questioning whether current levels are justified, given the massive stimulus by the Fed and the possibility that improvement in economic data could cause the U.S. central bank to begin curbing its easy money policy.

S&P 500 futures rose 1.2 points and were slightly 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 added 3 points and Nasdaq 100 futures slipped 0.25 point.

Economic data showed import prices slipped 0.5 percent last month due to a drop in oil costs, the biggest decline since December and matching Wall Street expectations.

In company news, Nokia Corp unveiled a new version of its Lumia smartphone line, but U.S.-listed shares fell 3.7 percent to $3.70 in premarket trading.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled late Monday that an Indiana farmer had violated Monsanto Co's patent for a type of soybean.

U.S.-listed shares of Sony Corp jumped 7.7 percent to $20.35 before the opening bell after billionaire hedge fund investor Daniel Loeb called on the company to spin off its lucrative entertainment arm.

Tesla Motors extended its meteoric rise following a gain of 40 percent last week after lifting its sales outlook. It climbed 6.2 percent to $93.21 before the bell.

Agilent Technologies Inc is the only S&P company scheduled to report results on Tuesday.

Most corporate earnings have been better than expected this quarter. With 90 percent of the S&P having reported, 67.2 percent have topped earnings expectations, according to Thomson Reuters data, which is even with the average over the past four quarters.

However, only 46.9 percent have beaten revenue expectations, below the 52 percent average over the past four quarters.

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