January 29, 2010 / 2:06 PM / 8 years ago

US STOCKS-Futures point to higher open after GDP data

* US economy grew in Q4 at 5.7 pct pace

* Reuters/Univ. of Michigan consumer sentiment data due

* Chevron edges higher after Q4 results

* Futures up: Dow 63 pts, S&P 7 pts, Nasdaq 17.75 pts

* For up-to-the-minute market news, click [STXNEWS/US]

(Updates with GDP data)

By Ryan Vlastelica

NEW YORK, Jan 29 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures moved sharply higher on Friday, pointing to gains at the open, after data showed the U.S. economy grew at a 5.7 percent pace in the fourth quarter, much higher than expected.

The first estimate of the nation’s economic output in the last three months of 2009 put gross domestic product growth at its fastest pace since the third quarter of 2003, according to the U.S. Commerce Department. Analysts were expecting GDP to grow at a 4.6 percent rate in the quarter. For details, see [ID:nN28120005]

“This is a great number and gives us a running start into the second half of the year, when we won’t be able to rely on government stimulus,” said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at Harris Private Bank in Chicago.

“It’s possible that this could lead to higher interest rates sooner than later, but having a front-loaded number is, all in all, good news; better too high than too low.”

Futures were also lifted a day after Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) and Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) reported quarterly results that beat expectations. Microsoft, a Dow component, expects business technology spending to recover in 2010, while Amazon forecast strong 2010 revenue.

Shares of Microsoft gained 2.8 percent to $29.97 in premarket trading while Amazon climbed 3.3 percent to $130.15. [ID:nN27150165] and [ID:nN19226206]

S&P 500 SPc1 futures rose 7 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 DJc1 futures gained 63 points, and Nasdaq 100 NDc1 futures added 17.75 points.

Dow component Chevron Corp (CVX.N) edged 0.3 percent higher to $73.47 in premarket trading after reporting its fourth-quarter results. [ID:nN29120138]

The Institute for Supply Management-Chicago PMI data and the Reuters/University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers final consumer sentiment reading, both for January, are also on tap for later in the day. [ID:nWNAB0447]

The Chicago PMI, while still showing an expansionary reading above 50, is expected to dip to 57.4 from 58.7 in December. The Reuters/University of Michigan consumer survey is expected to tick up slightly to 73.0 from a reading of 72.5 in late December, according to a poll of economists by Reuters.

Honeywell International Inc (HON.N) reported a slight decline in its fourth-quarter profit, while Mattel Inc (MAT.O) reported better-than-expected profit in its holiday season.

Honeywell fell 3.2 percent to $38.50 before the bell while Mattel gained 1.6 percent to $20.37. [ID:nN29134579] [ID:nN29109663]

The U.S. Senate on Thursday voted to confirm Ben Bernanke for another four-year term despite misgivings over what some saw as policy missteps. While the confirmation was expected, recent doubts about his support created an overhang for equities. [ID:nN27143856] (Editing by Padraic Cassidy)

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