Futures flat with Fed chair pick, tax bill in focus

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[November 02, 2017]   By Sruthi Shankar and Tanya Agrawal

(Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures were flat on Thursday as investors held off from making big bets ahead of President Donald Trump's decision on the next Federal Reserve chair and the unveiling of a long-awaited tax reform bill.

* Trump is widely expected to nominate Fed Governor Jerome Powell from a list of five finalists that included current Fed Chair Janet Yellen, Stanford University economist John Taylor, former Fed Governor Kevin Warsh and White House economic adviser Gary Cohn.

* Powell, 64, has broadly supported Yellen's monetary policy, and in recent years has shared her concern that low inflation justified continuing with a cautious approach to raising interest rates.

* Trump will announce his choice at 3:00 p.m. ET (1900 GMT) at the White House, according to his public schedule.

* The Fed kept interest rates unchanged on Wednesday, but gave encouraging comments about the economy, signaling it was on track to lift borrowing costs again in December.

* Central banks around the world are inching toward a tighter monetary policy. The latest is the Bank of England, which is expected to raise rates for the first time in a decade.

* Investors will also look to the unveiling of a tax reform bill. After a one-day postponement, Republicans have made plans for a measure that will seek up to $6 trillion in tax cuts over 10 years but will likely not spell out completely how to offset them.

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 Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., August 16, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

* Among economic data, a report on weekly jobless claims numbers is likely to have increased by 2,000 from 233,000 for the week ended Oct. 21. The data is expected at 8:30 a.m. ET.

* With nearly three-quarter of earnings season completed, earnings have come in largely positive. Technology has been the best performing sector, with 90 percent of the S&P tech companies beating profit expectations, the best among all S&P sectors.

* Apple, the last big technology company to report, is scheduled to release its report after the bell.

* Tesla dipped 5.7 percent after the electric car maker pushed back its target for volume production on its new Model 3 sedan by about three months, and reported its biggest quarterly loss ever.

* FireEye tanked nearly 13 percent after the cybersecurity firm flagged loss for the fourth quarter hurt by shorter contract lengths.

(Reporting by Sruthi Shankar and Tanya Agrawal; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila)

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