July 27, 2012 / 11:59 AM / 7 years ago

US STOCKS-Futures advance on optimism over stimulus

(Adds comment, Merck results)

* Facebook, Starbucks tumble in premarket after results

* GDP data on tap

* Merck shares rise after earnings

* Futures up: Dow 45 pts, S&P 4.6 pts, Nasdaq 13.50

By Edward Krudy

NEW YORK, July 27 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures edged higher on Friday at the end of a volatile week that has reinvigorated hopes that both the U.S. Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank will act next week to shore up flagging economies and stabilize the euro zone.

Stocks leapt nearly 2 percent on Thursday, erasing much of their losses for the week, as ECB chief Mario Draghi said he would do whatever it takes to save the euro. That followed a story in the Wall Street Journal Wednesday which was widely seen as heralding a new round of stimulus from the Fed.

The Commerce Department releases its first estimate for second-quarter gross domestic product (GDP) at 8:30 a.m. (1230 GMT), expected to show the economy expanded at a 1.5 percent annual rate between April and June, down from 1.9 percent in the first three months of the year. A miss there could reinforce expectation of Fed action.

Kim Forrest, senior equity research analyst at Fort Pitt Capital Group in Pittsburgh, said that while more bond purchases, or quantitative easing, from the Fed would produce a short-term trading rally, it would be unlikely to fix the economy or sustain the markets in the long term.

“We don’t think it’s fixing anything,” she said. “What it seems to be doing is kicking the can down the road rather than letting capital go to its best use.”

S&P 500 futures rose 4.6 points and were above fair value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration of the contract. Dow Jones industrial average futures added 45 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures gained 13.50 points.

Optimism over further stimulus measures have helped offset a mixed U.S. corporate earnings season, with many companies beating profit forecasts but often missing revenue projections and warning about sluggish global growth.

As of Thursday, about half of S&P 500 companies have reported earnings. Of those, about two thirds have beat profit forecasts. Three in five, however, have missed Wall Street’s revenue projections, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Facebook Inc reported a drastic slowdown in revenue growth on Thursday and failed to offer financial forecasts that quelled fears about its ability to boost advertising growth, sending its shares plummeting to a record low. The stock was down 10.6 percent at $24.05 in premarket trade.

Starbucks Corp cut its outlook for the current quarter, citing global economic weakness and a recent slowdown in visits in the United States, its biggest market for sales and profits, sending shares tumbling 9.7 percent premarket.

Merck & Co reported better-than-expected quarterly earnings on Friday, despite the negative impact of the stronger dollar, with strong sales growth of its vaccines and treatments for diabetes and HIV. The shares rose 1.5 percent in light trading.

European shares offered support with a second consecutive rise due to renewed hopes of more stimulus from global policymakers. The FTSEurofirst 300 index was up 0.5 percent Friday, after surging 2.4 percent on Thursday.

The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers at 9:55 a.m ET ( 1 355 GMT) i s expected by economists to show a reading of 72.0 on its index of consumer sentiment, in line with a preliminary figure.

Amazon.com shares were down 0.5 percent in premarket trading following the release of its results. The online retailer forecast third-quarter revenue that lagged Wall Street’s projections. (Reporting by Edward Krudy; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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