US STOCKS-Futures gain on earnings optimism

* Alcoa unofficially kicks off earnings season

* Strong quake in Japan adds to investor caution

* China posts Q1 trade deficit in a sign of rebalancing

* Futures up: S&P 3 pts, Dow 32 pts, Nasdaq 7.75 pts

* For up-to-the-minute market news see [STXNEWS/US]
(Adds details, comment, byline)

By Angela Moon

NEW YORK, April 11 (Reuters) – U.S. stock index futures
edged up on Monday as hopes for a strong earnings season offset
some concerns about another earthquake in Japan.

Aluminum maker Alcoa (AA.N: Quote, Profile, Research) will unofficially kick off the
U.S. earnings season after the market’s close on Monday. The
company is expected to report quarterly earnings of 27 cents
per share on revenue of $6.07 billion, according to Thomson
Reuters estimates. Investors will watch for evidence of
companies’ trimming their outlooks due to inflation worries.

“The good news for bulls as we enter earnings season is
that expectations appear to be low,” said Todd Salamone, senior
vice president of research at Schaeffer’s Investment Research
in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Another strong aftershock struck northeast Japan on Monday
and an advisory warned of a possible tsunami for the coast. For
details, see [ID:nL3E7FA058]

Resource-related stocks will be in focus as copper prices
(CMCU3: Quote, Profile, Research) advanced on a weaker dollar and encouraging China trade
data. Gold (XAU=: Quote, Profile, Research) hit a record high, while silver (XAG=: Quote, Profile, Research)
climbed to its highest in more than three decades.

China recorded a rare trade deficit in the first quarter of
the year due to domestic economic strength and rising global
commodity prices, the customs administration said on Sunday.

NYSE Euronext (NYX.N: Quote, Profile, Research) said it would stick to a deal with
Deutsche Boerse (DB1Gn.DE: Quote, Profile, Research), snubbing a rival U.S. offer and
thereby decreasing the chances of a bidding war. On Sunday,
NYSE Euronext’s board of directors unanimously rejected the
rival offer from Nasdaq OMX Group (NDAQ.O: Quote, Profile, Research) and
IntercontinentalExchange (ICE.N: Quote, Profile, Research), saying it was too risky and
counter to the Big Board’s vision. [ID:nN10204369]

U.S. President Barack Obama will lay out his approach for
long-term deficit reduction later this week, his senior adviser
David Plouffe said on Sunday. Obama will look at the Medicare
and Medicaid government healthcare programs for the elderly and
the poor to “see what kind of savings” are possible, Plouffe
told NBC’s “Meet the Press.” [ID:nN10197400]

After three months of solid gains that have brought stocks
to close to 2 1/2-year highs, some analysts said the U.S.
earnings season may not be the time for investors to buy
aggressively since this year’s winners already reflect earnings
optimism. [ID:nN07256466]

S&P 500 futures (SPc1: Quote, Profile, Research) rose 3 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 (DJc1: Quote, Profile, Research) added 32
points and Nasdaq 100 futures (NDc1: Quote, Profile, Research) rose 7.75 points.

Brent crude (LCOc1: Quote, Profile, Research) fell below $126 a barrel, while U.S.
crude futures slipped after touching a 2-1/2-year high as the
African Union said Muammar Gaddafi had accepted a road map to
end the civil war in Libya. [ID:nL3E7FB0Z5]

The group said Gaddafi has accepted an immediate ceasefire
and added that the issue of his stepping down had also been
discussed. Rebels have said they will accept nothing less than
an end to Gaddafi’s four decades in power, but Libyan officials
say he will not quit. [ID:nLDE73A03S]

U.S. stocks fell late on Friday as a spike in oil prices
revived worries that inflation would derail the recovery,
jolting a market that had been treading water ahead of
corporate earnings.
(Reporting by Angela Moon, Editing by Kenneth Barry)

US STOCKS-Futures gain on earnings optimism