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Stock Futures Rise as IBM Beats, Jobless Claims Drop

Tickers in this article: AXP GOOG IBM INTC MS MSFT UNH VZ ^DJI ^GSPC ^IXIC

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Stock futures were edging higher Thursday after a batch of better-than-expected earnings reports from a number of heavyweight companies and a dip in jobless claims numbers ahead of a second day of economic testimony.

Futures for the S&P 500 were up 3.5 points, or 3.54 points above fair value, to 1,679. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were up 15 points, or 51.48 points above fair value, to 15,455. Futures for the Nasdaq were up 1 point, or 1.67 points above fair value, to 3,080.25.

U.S. stocks closed higher Wednesday as Bernanke reiterated an accommodative tone on monetary policy, easing concern the central bank is seeking to curb the bond-buying stimulus program that has helped boost equity markets for more than 18 months.

"If needed, the committee would be prepared to employ all of its tools, including an increase in the pace of purchases for a time, to promote a return to maximum employment in a context of price stability,'' Bernanke said.

The Fed chairman begins his second day of semi-annual monetary policy and economic reporting before Congress at 10:30 a.m. EDT; he testifies Thursday before the Senate Banking Committee in Washington.

IBM shares were gaining 1.88% to $198.20 after the company beat Wall Street's second-quarter earnings estimates on Wednesday and raised its guidance despite missing analysts' top-line forecasts. Excluding the impact of a $1 billion work force rebalancing charge incurred in the quarter, the tech giant earned $3.91 a share, a year-over-year increase of 8%. IBM, however, brought in revenue of $24.9 billion, down 3% over the same period, or 1% adjusted for currency. Analysts were looking for earnings of $3.77 a share on sales of $25.37 billion.

IBM CEO Ginni Rometty said the company was confident of achieving its increased 2013 operating EPS expectation of at least $16.90, excluding the $1 billion work force rebalancing charge. Previously, IBM had forecast operating EPS of at least $16.70.

Morgan Stanley was adding more than 3.5% to $27.49 after the bank reported that profits rose 69% in the second quarter on higher revenue on the back of strong equities trading results and a solid performance in a difficult quarter for fixed income. Equity sales and trading net revenues of $1.8 billion, up from $1.3 billion a year ago.

UnitedHealth was rising 1.83% to $67.44 after the health insurer beat second-quarter expectations by 15 cents at $1.40 a share thanks to a sharp improvement in enrollment, and hiked the lower end of its full-year earnings outlook.

Initial jobless claims fell 24,000 to 334,000 in the week ended July 13, according to the Labor Department. This print was better than expected, falling below the average economist expectation of 345,000, though seasonal auto shutdown issues have made the interpretation of jobless claims a bit more challenging recently. Still the four-week moving average, which smooths out volatility and is indicative of longer-term labor market trends, was also down 5,250 at 346,000, which points the market to possibilities that the Fed could be moving closer towards bond tapering in September.