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US STOCKS-Futures edge higher as rally looks set to continue

Ryan Vlastelica
Monday, 28 Oct 2013 | 7:10 AM ET

* S&P 500 hit record close Friday after three weeks of gains

* Apple to report results after market closes

* Sept pending home sales on tap, seen rising 0.1 percent

* Futures up: Dow 45 pts, S&P 2.4 pts, Nasdaq 9.75 pts

NEW YORK, Oct 28 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures edged higher on Monday, indicating that the rally that took major indexes to record highs would continue as investors continued to digest corporate earnings results.

* The S&P 500 has hit a series of record highs over the past two weeks, including ending at a record on Friday. However, further gains may be harder to come by given the length and speed of the market's advance this year.

* The gains have largely come on the back of expectations that the U.S. Federal Reserve wouldn't slow its accommodative monetary policies for several months. The Fed's policy-making committee ends a two-day meeting on Wednesday, and it is considered extremely unlikely that the policies will be slowed.

Corporate earnings have also given investors reason to buy. While the season has been mixed overall, especially for revenue, bellwether names like Microsoft and Amazon.com rallied last week.

* Earnings will continue to be in focus this week, especially Apple Inc, the largest U.S. company by market cap, which reports after the market closes. Shares of the tech titan are slightly lower on the year, and investors are looking to see the sales strength of its low-cost iPhone.

* Based on results so far and estimates for companies still to report, S&P 500 earnings are expected to have risen just 3.4 percent in the third quarter, with 69 percent of companies reporting earnings above analysts' expectations. Revenue growth is seen at 2.2 percent for the quarter, with just 54.2 percent beating sales estimates, below the long-term average of 61 percent, Thomson Reuters data showed.

* On Monday, S&P 500 futures rose 2.4 points and were above 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 added 45 points and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 9.75 points.

* The S&P 500 is up 23.4 percent so far this year, just shy of the 23.5 percent gain it posted in 2009. Surpassing the 2009 record would give the index its biggest annual gain in a decade.

* Much of those gains have come recently, with both the Dow and S&P 500 posting their third straight week of gains last week. The Nasdaq has climbed for seven of the past eight weeks while the Russell 2000 index of small cap stocks registered its eighth week of gains last week, its longest streak since 2003.

* The climb could suggest that equities are vulnerable to a pullback, especially if corporate earnings disappoint.

* Investors will also look ahead to September pending home sales, due at 10 a.m., which are seen rising 0.1 percent, a rebound from the 1.6 percent decline last month.

* In company news, cable television network AMC Networks Inc on Monday said it agreed to buy Chellomedia, the international content unit of Liberty Global Inc, for about $1.04 billion.

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