July 18, 2018 / 11:55 AM / 7 months ago

US STOCKS-Futures at 5-month highs ahead of Powell testimony, earnings

* Morgan Stanley up on strong Q2 results

* Chipmakers gain on ASML’s robust forecast

* Berkshire rises on loosening buyback policy

* Dow up 0.02 pct, S&P down 0.01 pct, Nasdaq down 0.11 pct

By Amy Caren Daniel

July 18 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures hovered at five-month highs on Wednesday ahead of a slew of earnings, with a strong quarterly report from Morgan Stanley helping reaffirm a bullish outlook for the earnings season.

Also in focus is Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell testimony from 10.00 a.m. ET, a day after his bullish outlook on the U.S. economy boosted Wall Street’s main indexes.

“The Fed Chair is once again expected to deliver a very upbeat assessment of the economy and stick to previous views on rate hikes,” Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at online forex broker Oanda, said in a note.

Morgan Stanley’s shares jumped 2.3 percent in premarket trading after reporting a better-than-expected quarterly profit on gains in its fixed income and equities trading businesses.

As the second-quarter earnings season shifts into high gear, analyst expectations have grown rosier. The second-quarter S&P 500 earnings growth is now expected to be 21.2 percent, up from 20.7 percent on July 1, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Semiconductor bellwether ASML Holding’s strong quarterly results and forecast for the rest of the year sent its shares up 3.3 percent and lifted other chipmakers.

Intel, Micron, AMD and Nvidia were up between 0.20 percent and 0.70 percent.

At 7:36 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were up 4 points, or 0.02 percent. S&P 500 e-minis were down 0.25 points, or 0.01 percent and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were down 8.5 points, or 0.11 percent.

Twitter, the third-biggest gainer on the S&P 500 this year, fell 0.8 percent after Macquaire downgraded the stock to “neutral” on valuation concerns.

Berkshire Hathaway’s class B shares rose 2.0 percent after it eliminated a restriction on its ability to buy back its own stock, which could help it deploy more cash.

Economic data at 8.30 a.m. ET is expected to show housing starts rose to 1.32 million units in June, compared with a rise of 1.35 million units in May. (Reporting by Amy Caren Daniel in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur)

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