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Mostly positive US earnings send stock futures up

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Stocks are headed for a fourth gain in a row after several big-name U.S. companies reported encouraging first-quarter results. PepsiCo and Goldman Sachs are among the companies reporting earnings that were better than investors were expecting.

KEEPING SCORE: Standard & Poor’s 500 index futures rose two points, or 0.1 percent, to 1,855 as of 9 a.m. Eastern time Thursday. Dow Jones industrial average futures rose 13 points, also 0.1 percent, to 16,344. Nasdaq composite index futures rose 12 points, or 0.4 percent, to 3,514.

EARNINGS, THE GOOD: General Electric described the economic situation as “positive” and said its industrial division was doing well. PepsiCo reported higher income as the company slashed costs and sold more snacks around the world. Both stocks rose 2 percent in pre-market trading. Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley also rose in pre-market trading after reporting higher income than analysts had forecast. Goldman rose 2 percent and Morgan Stanley rose 3 percent.

EARNINGS, THE NOT SO GOOD: Mattel fell 2 percent after the toy maker said weak sales of Barbie and markdowns to clear out excess inventory left over from a sluggish holiday season led to an unexpected loss in the first three months of the year. UnitedHealth Group fell 2 percent after the leading health insurance provider said its income slid 8 percent in the first quarter as fees and funding cuts from the health care overhaul dented the company’s performance.

THE ECONOMY: The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits last week rose 2,000 to 304,000. That was less than analysts were expecting and a sign that layoffs aren’t increasing rapidly. The number of weekly claims continues to be near pre-recession levels despite the slight increase.

BOND TRADING: Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.65 percent.