US STOCKS-Wall St to open flat as earnings roll in; IBM drops

Reuters

* IBM, Coach fall in premarket after earnings

* 26 companies scheduled to report on Wednesday

* El-Erian to step down from PIMCO

* Futures: Dow off 18 pts, S&P up 0.5 pt, Nasdaq up 6.75 pts

By Chuck Mikolajczak

NEW YORK, Jan 22 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks were set for a flat open on Wednesday, as corporate earnings provide investors with little reason to buy in a stock market that has been unable to find its footing after a strong rally last year.

* IBM shares lost 3.9 percent to $181.10 before the opening bell. The world's biggest technology services company missed revenue expectations for a fourth straight quarter amid weakening demand, particularly in growth markets like China.

* Fellow Dow component United Technologies Corp shed 0.04 percent to $114.94 in premarket trading after the world's largest maker of elevators and air conditioners reported higher fourth-quarter profit that topped Wall Street estimates, although revenue fell shy of expectations.

* Coach Inc tumbled 7.6 percent to $48.55 in premarket trading after it said sales in North America fell further in the final quarter of 2013, as it lost share in the handbag business to fast-growing rivals such as Michael Kors Holdings Ltd and Kate Spade.

* After a 29.6 percent jump in the S&P 500 in 2013, the S&P has edged down 0.2 percent so far in 2014 as investors look to corporate profits for evidence of growth as the Federal Reserve has begun to wind down its market-friendly economic stimulus.

* About eight companies have issued negative outlooks for every positive one, which would mark the lowest ratio on record should it continue.

* According to Thomson Reuters data, earnings for the fourth quarter are expected to grow 7 percent over the prior year. Of the 61 companies in the benchmark S&P index that have reported so far, about 56 percent topped analyst expectations, below the long-term average of 63 percent. About 71 percent have topped revenue forecasts, above the long-term average of 61 percent.

* S&P 500 e-mini futures added 0.5 point and were slightly above 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 lost 18 points and Nasdaq 100 futures gained 6.75 point.

* Advanced Micro Devices Inc slumped 9.4 percent to $3.78 in premarket after the chipmaker forecast a steeper-than-expected fall in current quarter revenue, saying sales of gaming consoles were not growing fast enough to offset slowing PC sales.

* After the closing bell, earnings are expected from eBay Inc, Netflix Inc, Varian Medical Systems Inc and F5 Networks Inc. A total of 26 S&P 500 companies are scheduled to report earnings on Wednesday.

* Merger and acquisition activity continued at a brisk pace, as companies flush with cash look for ways to create growth. Cloud software maker VMWare Inc said it would buy privately held mobile security company AirWatch in a deal valued at about $1.54 billion to tap into rising demand for software security, sending its shares up 3 percent in premarket trading.

* Mohamed El-Erian, heir apparent to Pimco co-founder Bill Gross, will step down as chief executive and co-chief investment officer, raising questions about the future course of Pacific Investment Management Co, the world's largest bond fund manager.

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