Stock index futures were little changed on Thursday as investors awaited data on the labor and housing markets, along with a report on January U.S. factory orders.
Weekly initial jobless claims are expected to drop by 26,000 to 470,000 for the latest week. Investors will look to the data, due at 8:30 a.m., for direction on the labor market ahead of Friday's monthly non-farm payrolls report. That report is expected to show a loss of 50,000 jobs in February.
With that as a backdrop you certainly get a lot of people who take a wait-and-see attitude. said Arthur Hogan, chief market analyst, Jefferies & Co in Boston.
The initial jobless claims -- that's been a bit of a fly in the ointment as it started ratcheting up in the higher 400,000 numbers and can be a precursor to what we see in the change in the non-farm payroll number.
At 10 a.m., January factory goods orders are expected to have risen 1.8 percent month over month, nearly double the 1 percent rise recorded in December. Pending home sales, also due at 10 a.m., are expected to repeat the 1 percent rise recorded in December.
S&P 500 futures shed 0.2 point and were slightly 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 8 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures lost 1.75 points.
Retailers will be in focus as they report monthly sales results for February, which may have been hurt by the severe weather across the U.S. Limited Brands Inc
Costco Wholesale Corp
President Barack Obama will usher in the last act of his push to overhaul the $2.5 trillion U.S. healthcare system on Wednesday by arguing that his retooled plan, incorporating more ideas from rival Republicans, is essential to the good of the country.
European shares briefly turned positive, with gains in banks offsetting weakness in drugmakers, as investors await interest rate decisions from the Bank of England and European Central Bank.
Asian shares failed to hold on to early gains on Thursday, slipping into negative territory as worries about Greece's debt burden and the outlook for the global economy made investors cautious.
(Editing by Padraic Cassidy)