March 28, 2013 / 12:32 PM / 5 years ago

US STOCKS-Futures inch higher, set to close out strong quarter

* U.S. weekly jobless claims, GDP final estimate on tap

* BlackBerry posts better-than-expected results

* Cyprus reopens banks under tight restrictions

* Futures: S&P up 1.4 pts, Dow up 27 pts, Nasdaq up 5 pts

By Angela Moon

NEW YORK, March 28 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures edged up on Thursday and were set to close out a strong quarter, as investors shifted focus from Cyprus to data about the U.S. economy, which has been showing slow, steady improvement.

Investors awaited U.S. weekly jobless claims, which were expected to rise to 340,000. A final estimate of U.S. fourth-quarter gross domestic product was forecast to show a 0.5 percent annualized growth rate, compared with a 0.1 percent in the prior estimate.

Both government reports were scheduled for 8:30 a.m. (1230 GMT) in the holiday-shortened week. U.S. markets will be closed for Good Friday.

Tight controls have been imposed on transactions by Cyprus’s banks to limit cash withdrawals, ban checks and bar businesses from transferring money abroad in most cases as banks reopened after nearly two weeks.

“Concerns about the euro zone can create noise in the market, but as long as the earnings are good and the Fed is keeping its stance, the market doesn’t really care,” said Joe Saluzzi, co-founder and partner at Themis Trading.

“But we do need to see some real improvements in earnings going forward, like really turning profits and revenues. The GDP will give some idea on this, so if we get a negative print, that might trigger people to think that we are entering the recession mode again.”

S&P 500 futures added 1.4 points and were in line with 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 gained 27 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures added 5 points.

BlackBerry announced an unexpected fourth-quarter profit on Thursday, driven by demand for its new touchscreen device which holds the key to a successful turnaround for the smartphone maker. U.S.-listed shares were down 4 percent in premarket trade after being higher shortly after the results.

Chesapeake Energy Corp’s search for a new chief executive to replace Aubrey McClendon is likely to extend beyond an April 1 deadline, according to a person familiar with the situation.

Influential proxy advisory firm ISS threw its weight behind opponents of MetroPCS Communications Inc’s proposed merger with T-Mobile USA, saying the deal undervalued the company and shareholders should vote against it.

A federal judge on Wednesday said JPMorgan Chase & Co must face a lawsuit by a pension plan that accused it of mismanaging its money by investing in Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc notes before that bank filed for bankruptcy in 2008.

U.S. stocks rebounded from early declines to close little changed on Wednesday, as investors worried about a run on Cypriot banks.

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