Futures higher with earnings, Fed in focus

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[October 31, 2017]   By Sruthi Shankar

(Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures were slightly higher on Tuesday following a fresh set of earnings reports, while investors waited for an announcement on the new Federal Reserve head.

* President Donald Trump is likely to pick Fed Governor Jerome Powell as the next head of the U.S. central bank, a source familiar with the matter said on Monday.

* Powell is seen as more dovish than other contenders such as Stanford University economist John Taylor. Trump is expected to announce his decision on Thursday.

* The Federal Open Market Committee kicks off its two-day meeting in Washington to discuss interest rates.

* The central bank is likely to hold back from raising rates after the meeting, with economists expecting a hike only in December, according to a Reuters poll.

* With more than half the S&P 500 components reported, third-quarter earnings are expected to have climbed 6.7 percent, up from an expectation of 5.9-percent growth at the start of October, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

* Pfizer <PFE.N> gained 1.71 percent premarket after the largest U.S. drugmaker's third-quarter profit more than doubled.

* Mondelez <MDLZ.O> jumped nearly 6 percent after the Oreo maker reported better-then-expected profit and revenue as demand for its key brands rose in Europe and Latin America and the company cut costs.

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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

* WellCare Health Plans <WCG.N> jumped 3 percent after the health insurer said its profit more than doubled.

* Wall Street pulled back from record-high territory on Monday, weighed down by a drop in Merck shares and a report that U.S. lawmakers are discussing a gradual phase-in of much-anticipated corporate tax cuts.

* Also rattling the market on Monday was news that Federal investigators probing Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election charged Trump's former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, and another aide, Rick Gates, with money laundering.

* A Conference Board report due at 10:00 a.m. ET (1400 GMT) is expected to show that its consumer confidence index rose to a reading of 121 in October from 119.8 in September.

* Qualcomm <QCOM.O> was down 4.4 percent after Reuters reported that Apple <AAPL.O> has designed iPhones and iPads that would drop chips supplied by Qualcomm.

(Reporting by Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila)

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