July 18, 2017 / 11:23 AM / 8 months ago

US STOCKS-Futures flat as investors gauge big companies' earnings

* Futures: Dow up 7 pts, S&P off 0.75 pts, Nasdaq down 0.75 pts

By Tanya Agrawal

July 18 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures were little changed on Tuesday as investors waited for earnings from big U.S. companies to set the tone for the markets.

Shares of UnitedHealth Group rose 1.8 percent in premarket trading after the largest U.S. health insurer’s quarterly profit beat expectations and it raised its earnings forecast.

Johnson and Johnson rose 1 percent after the pharma company’s quarterly revenue grew from a year ago.

The healthcare sector will be under scrutiny after the Republican healthcare bill to replace Obamacare hit yet another snag with news that two Republican senators would not support the latest version of the bill.

This could mean that President Donald Trump’s policies on tax reform and infrastructure spending will be further delayed.

News on the healthcare bill sent the U.S. dollar to a 10-month low against a basket of major currencies.

As earnings season gets under way, the market will be keeping a close eye on corporate results to see if the high valuations are justified in the face of mixed economic data and tepid inflation.

Analysts’ are estimating an 8.2 percent rise in second-quarter earnings for the S&P 500 companies from a year earlier.

This follows a robust first quarter when U.S. companies posted their best earnings since 2011, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

The S&P 500 has been trading at about 18 times earnings estimates for the next 12 months, compared with the long-term average of 15 times.

IBM, United Continental Holdings, CSX and Navient are among the companies scheduled to report results after the bell.

The U.S. Labor Department is expected to report that import prices fell 0.2 percent in June after sliding 0.3 percent in May, while export prices may be flat in June after falling 0.7 percent in May. The data is expected at 8:30 a.m. ET (1230 GMT).

Netflix jumped 11 percent after the streaming-television pioneer’s added more subscribers than expected in the second quarter.

Bank of America slipped 0.6 percent despite the lender posting a growth in quarterly profit.

Shares of JPMorgan, Wells Fargo and Citigroup had taken a beating last week as their quarterly results and forecasts failed to excite investors.

Harley-Davidson fell 3.6 percent after the motorcycle maker cut its 2017 shipments forecast.

Futures snapshot at 6:59 a.m. ET:

* Dow e-minis were up 7 points, or 0.03 percent, with 14,845 contracts changing hands.

* S&P 500 e-minis were down 0.75 points, or 0.03 percent, with 103,093 contracts traded.

* Nasdaq 100 e-minis were down 0.75 points, or 0.01 percent, on volume of 17,445 contracts. (Reporting by Tanya Agrawal; Editing by Arun Koyyur)

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