March 23, 2017 / 11:29 AM / 9 months ago

US STOCKS-Futures higher as investors eye healthcare vote

* Futures up: Dow 21 pts, S&P 5.75 pts, Nasdaq 7.75 pts

By Tanya Agrawal

March 23 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures were modestly higher on Thursday as investors turned their attention to President Donald Trump’s first significant policy test, as he looks to gets a healthcare bill passed in Congress.

* Trump and Republican lawmakers pushed on Wednesday for votes for their plan to overhaul Obamacare and said they were making progress in their efforts to win over conservative members of the party who have demanded changes to the legislation.

* With a vote on the bill possible as soon as Thursday, losing or delaying it would bruise investors’ confidence in Trump’s ability to deliver on his promises of tax cuts and infrastructure spending.

* The S&P 500 has gained 10 percent since the election, spurred mainly by Trump’s campaign promises to enact legislation that are seen as pro-business, but high valuations of stocks remain a concern.

* The benchmark index is trading at about 18 times expected forward earnings, compared with a 10-year average of 14, according to Thomson Reuters data.

* Wall Street ended mixed after a choppy session on Wednesday as investors focused on the fate of the healthcare bill and snapped up stocks after a steep drop the day before.

* Investors will also keep an eye on a speech by Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen for clues regarding the path of future interest rate hikes. Yellen is due to speak at a conference at 8:45 a.m. ET (1245 GMT).

* Minneapolis Fed Chief Neel Kashkari and Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan are also due to make appearances later in the day.

* The U.S. central bank raised rates by 25 basis points last week and reiterated that it would raise rates twice more this year, fewer than the three hikes expected by the market.

* Economic data due on Thursday includes weekly jobless claims at 8: 30 a.m. ET and new home sales number for February at 10 a.m. ET.

* Oil prices climbed off four-month lows but the recovery was cautious with investors fretting that OPEC-led supply cuts were not yet reducing record U.S. crude inventories.

* Among stocks, Five Below rose 8.7 percent to $41.44 in premarket trading after the retailer’s quarterly earnings beat estimates.

* PVH was up 7.1 percent at $97.31 after the branded apparel maker’s full-year profit forecast came above expectations.

Futures snapshot at 7:05 a.m. ET:

* Dow e-minis were up 21 points, or 0.1 percent, with 18,960 contracts changing hands.

* S&P 500 e-minis were up 5.75 points, or 0.25 percent, with 106,455 contracts traded.

* Nasdaq 100 e-minis were up 7.75 points, or 0.14 percent, on volume of 17,534 contracts. (Reporting by Tanya Agrawal in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D‘Silva)

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