February 16, 2018 / 12:52 PM / a year ago

US STOCKS-Futures rise, setting stocks on firm ground for the week

* Futures up: Dow 40 pts, S&P 6.25 pts, Nasdaq 19.5 pts

By Sruthi Shankar

Feb 16 (Reuters) - U.S. stock futures rose on Friday, set to build on a rally that has lasted five straight days as investors shrug off inflation fears and focus on growth in the economy and corporate profits.

At 6:56 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were up 40 points, S&P 500 e-minis had added 6.25 points and the Nasdaq 100 e-minis rose 19.5 points.

The benchmark S&P 500 index’s 4.3 percent gain since Monday has put it on track for its best week since January 2013. Its pullback from last week’s sell-off has been accompanied by low volatility, encouraging economic data and corporate reports.

Shares of Coca-Cola rose 1.85 percent in premarket trading after the soda maker’s cost-saving initiatives helped its beat fourth-quarter profit estimates.

Deere & Co rose 1.44 percent after the tractor maker reported higher quarterly sales.

Beside recent strong quarterly earnings, investor sentiment has also got a boost from expectations that more growth is still to come due to newly-implemented corporate tax cuts and plans to increase infrastructure spending.

Nearly 77 percent of the S&P 500 companies that reported fourth-quarter results so far have topped earnings estimate, above the 72 percent beat-rate in the past four quarters.

Many companies have boosted their forecasts and analysts now expect S&P 500 companies to increase their earnings per share in 2018 by 18.9 percent, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

After falling by more than 10 percent from their record highs on Jan. 26 on concerns about rising borrowing costs due to a pick up in inflation, the S&P has gained 5.8 percent since last Friday.

Some traders have said the market was also reassured by a decline in the CBOE Volatility index - a measure of implied near-term volatility on the S&P 500, also known as Wall Street’s “fear gauge”.

On Thursday, the VIX dropped below 20 points for the first time since hitting a two-and-a-half-year high of 50.3 last week, while yields on the benchmark U.S. 10-year Treasury bonds hit a more than four-year high of 2.9440 percent.

But, the rising yields this week has not pressured stocks like they did last week. The 10-year yields slipped to 2.8859 percent on Friday.

Economic data on tap includes housing starts data for January, which is forecast to have increased to a seasonally adjusted 1.234 million units. The report is due at 8:30 a.m. ET.

Later in the day, a preliminary reading of the University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment index is expected to show a slight fall to 95.5 in February from 95.7 in the previous month. (Reporting by Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; Editing by Savio D’Souza)

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