Stock futures flat before jobless claims data

By @ibtimes on

U.S. stock index futures were little changed on Thursday, the final day of the quarter, before weekly jobless claims data that could give insight into the U.S. employment situation.

On Friday investors will scrutinize non-farm payroll figures in the government's March unemployment report.

The week has been marked by some of the year's lowest volumes as traders opt to ride the quarter's gainers amid global risks. The S&P 500 is up 5.6 percent in the quarter, based on Wednesday's close.

Initial jobless benefits claims, due at 8:30 a.m., are forecast at 380,000, a slight decline from the prior week. Wednesday's reassuring ADP report on private payrolls kept sentiment up for Friday's payrolls report.

We're in a bit of a pause as we wait for the important claims number, said Rick Meckler, president of investment firm LibertyView Capital Management in New York.

Though this won't necessarily echo the payroll number, if claims are very bearish a lot of people will reconsider about what to expect tomorrow. If this is disappointing, a lot of people may use it as an excuse to step back.

David Sokol, the man widely seen as the leading successor to Warren Buffett to head up Berkshire Hathaway , has resigned after buying shares in chemical company Lubrizol Corp before pushing Buffett to acquire it. Berkshire's Class B shares fell 2.4 percent to $83.42 in premarket trading.

S&P 500 futures fell 0.6 point and were about even with 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 slid 0.25 point.

February factory orders data will be released at 10 a.m. (1400 GMT) after the market opens. Factory orders are seen rising by a smaller amount than in the previous month.

Chicago PMI data for March, which covers Midwest business activity, will also be released.

Microsoft Corp stepped up its rivalry with Google Inc on Thursday by filing a formal complaint with the European Commission, claiming Google systematically thwarts Internet search competition.

The Macau unit of Las Vegas Sands Corp said it is being investigated by the Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission for alleged regulatory violations. Shares of Las Vegas Sands fell 5.4 percent to $41.14 before the bell.

U.S. stocks rose for a second session on Wednesday with activity dominated by some of the strongest-performing groups in the first quarter, including energy and small-cap stocks.

(Editing by Kenneth Barry)

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