Wall Street set to open lower on earnings, oil prices

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NEW YORK: US stock index futures gave up early gains and set Wall Street up to open slightly lower on Thursday as tepid earnings reports and economic data as well as drop in oil prices tempered enthusiasm.

Shares of Dow component Verizon were off 2.5 percent in premarket trading after the wireless carrier reported a drop in quarterly revenue.

American Express, also a Dow component, jumped 6.3 percent after its strong results and forecast.

Oil prices fell 1.6 percent on profit taking, a day after US crude touched a 15-month high.

In a widely expected decision, the European Central Bank kept interest rates unchanged. President Mario Draghi said monetary policy cannot stay in place forever, but added the ECB did not discuss either ending its asset-buying program or extending it during its latest meeting.

More people perceived Democrat Hillary Clinton to have won the third and final U.S. presidential debate than her Republican rival Donald Trump.

Clinton, favored by the markets as her policies are clearer, was also perceived to have also won the previous debates, with the markets rising each time.

While markets have been fretting over central bank policies and the race for the White House, the immediate focus is the corporate earnings season in which S&P 500 companies are expected to have snapped a four-quarter earnings recession.

“Today is going to be earnings driven, but with no real clear direction in the market,” said Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James in St. Petersburg, Florida.

About 80 percent of the 70 S&P 500 companies that had reported results until Wednesday beat profit estimates.

Earnings are now expected to rise 0.5 percent in the third quarter, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Dow e-minis were down 27 points, or 0.15 percent at 8:58 a.m. ET, with 26,481 contracts changing hands.

S&P 500 e-minis were down 2.75 points, or 0.13 percent, with 157,499 contracts traded.

Nasdaq 100 e-minis were down 4 points, or 0.08 percent, on volume of 22,714 contracts.

Among S&P components, Mattel rose 7 percent after the toymaker reported a quarterly profit that beat estimates.
But, eBay tumbled 8.6 percent after it gave a disappointing forecast for the current quarter.

Microsoft, Schlumberger and PayPal are scheduled to report after markets close.

A report from the Labor Department showed the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefit rose more-than-expected last week, but remained below a level that is associated with a strong labor market.