Stocks: Investors wait for Bernanke again

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Investors were holding back on making any big bets Thursday morning as they wait for a second day of Congressional testimony from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.

U.S. stock futures were little changed before the opening bell.

Bernanke is scheduled to testify before the Senate Banking Committee at 10 a.m. ET.

Bernanke appeared before the House Financial Services Committee on Wednesday, reiterating that the Fed will keep its stimulus policies in place for as long as necessary.

U.S. stocks finished slightly higher Wednesday after the closely watched testimony.

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"Bernanke was a bit a damp squid really," said Chris Beauchamp, market analyst with IG Markets in London. "He really didn't say anything exciting. But there's always the nagging fear that he might say something today that might rock markets. So nobody wants to get too committed one way or another."

While Bernanke's testimony Thursday will be the same, investors are keen to hear what he says during the Q&A period that follows his prepared remarks.

The recent subdued market moves suggest that investors are beginning to accept Bernanke's core position, which is that monetary policy will remain highly accommodative.

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Also Thursday, the government released its weekly report on initial jobless claims, which declined to 334,000 for the week ended July 13. Claims were expected to drop to 348,000, according to's consensus of economist forecasts.

Shares of Morgan Stanley (MS) rose more than 3% after the financial firm reported a quarterly profit in line with estimates, though revenue beat forecasts.

Verizon (VZ) dipped slightly after reporting a 21% jump in quarterly net income compared with the year-ago quarter.

Nokia's (NOK) stock price dropped about 2% after the Finnish phone maker reported a 24% plunge in quarterly sales from a year earlier.

IBM (IBM) shares rose about 2% after the tech stalwart said its net income for the second quarter rose 3% to $4.3 billion, excluding special charges.

Late Wednesday, Intel (INTC) reported second-quarter profits that fell 29% versus a year prior. The company also said it expects revenue to be flat this year, after previously forecasting a modest increase.

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Global stock markets were also in holding patterns while investors waited for further testimony from Bernanke.

European markets were slightly higher in midday trading, led by London's FTSE 100.

The main Asian indexes were on different paths Thursday, with the Chinese markets heading lower while Japan's Nikkei advanced by 1.3%.

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