NEW YORK – U.S. stock index futures eased on Friday, with a key reading due on economic growth and caution prompting profit-taking after a strong month.
Stocks have traded sideways this week with investors wary of taking significant bets ahead of next week's elections and a likely announcement of more stimulus from the U.S. Federal Reserve.
The gross domestic product report, due at 8:30 a.m. EDT, will add to the debate over the size and timing of expected further quantitative easing from the Fed.
The GDP is forecast to expand at a 2 percent annual rate, compared with 1.7 percent in the second quarter, according to a Reuters survey of economists.
Among the latest corporate earnings, Merck & Co Inc (MRK.N) reported quarterly sales that missed estimates and took an almost $1 billion charge related to a government probe.
Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) gained 3.1 percent to $27.10 in premarket trade after its profit beat expectations on higher sales of its flagship software.
Kim Caughey Forrest, senior equity research analyst at Fort Pitt Capital Group in Pittsburgh, noted that earnings season has gotten a little less attention than usual as investors were uncertain how a second round of Fed stimulus could affect the companies they hold.
"I strongly believe the market does set prices with respect to what six months from now is going to hold. With (more) quantitative easing and the amount and timing still undecided, it gives us some pause," said Caughey Forrest.
S&P 500 futures slipped 4.7 points and were below 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 fell 30 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures gave up 6.75 points.
Stocks ended little changed on Thursday as investors took a cautious track. The S&P 500 is up 0.1 percent for the week so far. Since the beginning of October, the S&P 500 is up almost 4 percent.
The greenback steadied heading into the data, which is due at 8:30 a.m. EDT. The dollar index (.DXY) added 0.3 percent. The dollar and stocks have developed an inverse relationship of late, though that has weakened somewhat this week.
Also on the data front, the final reading of the October consumer sentiment index is due at 9:55 a.m. EDT (1355 GMT). Economists expect a reading of 68.0, compared with 67.9 in the preliminary October report.