* GE climbs after quarterly results
* Indexes up: Dow 0.97 pct, S&P 0.9 pct, Nasdaq 0.89 pct (Adds data, Yellen statement, updates prices)
By Chuck Mikolajczak
NEW YORK, Oct 17 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks were higher at the open on Friday, following a batch of solid earnings reports that eased concerns about the impact of weak global demand on U.S. growth and businesses.
The benchmark S&P index is on track for its fourth straight weekly decline, its longest streak in more than three years, and is down more than 7 percent from its record high amid concerns about the health of the global economy and possible spread of the Ebola virus.
Investors eyeing corporate earnings for positive trading incentives were rewarded. General Electric shares rose 2.8 percent to $24.94 after the company reported third-quarter earnings that topped analyst expectations, pushing the S&P industrial sector up 1.8 percent.
“It seemed like it was almost a perfect storm of factors that led to this recent selloff,” said David Lebovitz, global market strategist at J.P. Morgan Funds in New York.
“With earnings season beginning to ramp up, it is important to focus on the earnings picture because if the fundamentals continue to support equity prices - we continue to see earnings growth - that means equity prices should move higher.”
Energy shares, were up 2 percent as the best performing of the 10 major S&P sectors, led by a 7.2 percent rise in Schlumberger to $87.16 after the world’s largest oilfield services company posted a third-quarter profit that beat estimates for at least the ninth consecutive quarter.
U.S. housing starts and permits rose in September, as groundbreaking rose 6.3 percent to an annual 1.02 million-unit pace. The preliminary Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan reading on consumer sentiment is due at 9:55 a.m. (1355 GMT).
The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan preliminary October reading on the overall index on consumer sentiment came in at 86.4, the highest since July 2007 and above the 84.1 estimate.
Morgan Stanley rose advanced 2.8 percent to $33.43 after posting an 87 percent rise in third-quarter earnings.
Honeywell shares gained 3.3 percent to $89.27 after the maker of aircraft cockpit parts and other electronic equipment reported its quarterly results.
At 9:43 a.m., the Dow Jones industrial average rose 156.18 points, or 0.97 percent, to 16,273.42, the S&P 500 gained 16.8 points, or 0.9 percent, to 1,879.56 and the Nasdaq Composite added 37.62 points, or 0.89 percent, to 4,255.01.
Urban Outfitters shares slumped 14.5 percent to $29.54 in heavy trading after the retailer said its negative third-quarter comparable sales pace continued.
The earnings of S&P 500 companies are expected to grow 6.9 percent in the third quarter, according to Thomson Reuters data through Thursday, on revenue growth of 4.1 percent.
The largest percentage gainer on the S&P 500 was Xilinx , which rose 9.7 percent, while the largest percentage decliner was Urban Outfitters.
The largest percentage gainer on the Nasdaq 100 was Xilinx, which was rising 9.7 percent, while the largest percentage decliner was Netflix, down 3.1 percent.
Among the most active stocks on the NYSE were Bank Of America, up 0.75 percent to $16.20; GE, and Pfizer , up 0.40 percent to $27.81.
On the Nasdaq, Apple, up 0.9 percent to $97.12; and Microsoft, up 0.3 percent to $42.86 were among the most actively traded.
Advancing issues were outnumbering declining ones on the NYSE by 2,243 to 543, for a 4.13-to-1 ratio on the upside; on the Nasdaq, 1,744 issues were rising and 566 falling for a 3.08-to-1 ratio favoring advancers.
The benchmark S&P 500 index was posting 1 new 52-week highs and 1 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite was recording 22 new highs and 6 new lows.
Editing by Bernadette Baum