Stock futures flat before jobless claims, retail data

By @ibtimes on

U.S. stock index futures were little changed on Thursday before data on the labor market and same-store sales, which could offer clues about the outlook for U.S. consumer spending.

The S&P 500 closed Wednesday above a key technical level and its ability to hold above 1,333.58 will be tested. The level is double the cycle low hit in March 2009 and is near a recent 2-1/2 year high of about 1,344, which could bring technical resistance.

The Labor Department releases first-time claims for jobless benefits for the week ended April 2 at 8:30 a.m. Economists in a Reuters survey forecast a total of 385,000 new filings compared with 388,000 in the previous week.

Retailers' shares will be in focus as major companies release same-store sales data, while a shopping center group will report on chain store sales for March versus a year ago.

Among the first sales numbers on Thursday, Costco Wholesale Corp beat expectations with a 13 percent rise in March same-store sales, compared with a forecast for 7.4 percent. Its shares gained 1.4 percent in premarket trade.

The jobless claims numbers are extremely interesting, said Kim Caughey Forrest, senior equity research analyst at Fort Pitt Capital Group in Pittsburgh.

She said jobs and sales data can draw a picture about future spending. Everyone is concerned about how consumers are reacting to the (rising) price of gasoline.

S&P 500 futures rose 0.7 point and were slightly below fair value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration of the contract. Dow Jones industrial average futures rose 10 points and Nasdaq 100 futures dipped 1 point.

Average weekly volume has so far been the lowest of the year, raising questions about stocks' recent rebound.

Light volume is a little concerning. I'd like to see a little more conviction in buyers, Forrest said. But if anything, it also shows a lack of people's willingness to sell.

Bed Bath and Beyond Inc shares jumped 10 percent in premarket trade a day after it forecast earnings growth for the current year that would beat Wall Street estimates, following a holiday season that saw U.S. shoppers spend more on home goods.

Goldman Sachs Group is seeking to buy the 55 percent of its Australian and New Zealand joint venture that it does not already own, the company said on Thursday.

The European Central Bank announced it was raising its main refinancing rate by 25 basis points to 1.25 percent, as expected.

Portugal's financial sector can expect some relief after the caretaker government decided to seek financial aid following months of what many economists said was a refusal to acknowledge economic reality.

On Wednesday, the Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> rose 32.85 points, or 0.27 percent, to close at 12,426.75. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> gained 2.91 points, or 0.22 percent, to 1,335.54. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> advanced 8.63 points, or 0.31 percent, to 2,799.82.

(Reporting by Rodrigo Campos; Editing by Kenneth Barry)

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