February 1, 2018 / 12:44 PM / 19 days ago

US STOCKS-Futures slip after Fed strikes hawkish tone, Microsoft dips

* Futures: Dow down 15 pts, S&P up 2.25 pts, Nasdaq off 8 pts

By Tanya Agrawal

Feb 1 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures were slightly lower on Thursday after the Federal Reserve raised its inflation outlook and flagged “further gradual” interest rate increases, and Microsoft shares dropped despite its strong quarterly report.

On Wednesday, Wall Street gave up early gains to finish marginally higher after the Fed kept rates unchanged, but struck a more hawkish tone than expected, no longer saying it expected price growth to stay below 2 percent.

Equity markets are torn between buoyant economic growth and double-digit company earnings, on the one hand, and the possibility that U.S. and euro zone central banks will tighten policy faster than expected, which is pushing up bond yields.

U.S. Treasury yields held near four-year highs after the Fed’s statement. The rise in yields through this week has pummeled the stock market despite strong corporate earnings report.

Indeed, Microsoft’s shares fell 0.75 percent in premarket trading despite the after the software heavyweight beat quarterly profit forecasts. Some analysts said the company was coming into the quarter on very high expectations.

Analysts expect fourth-quarter S&P 500 earnings growth of 13.7 percent, up from 12 percent expected at the start of the month. So far, of the companies in the index that have reported, 80.5 percent have come in above consensus estimates.

At 7:08 a.m. ET (1208 GMT), Dow e-minis were down 15 points, or 0.06 percent, with 34,317 contracts changing hands.

S&P 500 e-minis were up 2.25 points, or 0.08 percent, with 159,903 contracts traded, while Nasdaq 100 e-minis were down 8 points, or 0.11 percent, on volume of 37,715 contracts.

Among other earnings, shares of Facebook rose 1.9 percent a day after the company forecast rising ad sales despite dip in usage.

eBay jumped 10.5 percent after posting higher revenue, while PayPal fell 7 percent after former parent company eBay said it had signed up a new primary payment processor.

AT&T rose 3.6 percent after it reported quarterly profit that beat estimates and voiced confidence the company will complete its $85.4 billion acquisition of Time Warner .

Industry heavyweights Apple, Alphabet and Amazon are due to report results after the bell.

A report on weekly jobless claims at 8:30 a.m. ET is likely to show claims increased to 238,000 last week from 233,000 the previous week. ISM manufacturing data for January and construction spending numbers for December are due 10 a.m. ET.

The heavy economic data week will culminate in the Labor Department’s nonfarm payrolls data for January on Friday. (Reporting by Tanya Agrawal in Bengaluru; Editing by Savio D‘Souza)

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