U.S. stock index futures were little changed on Thursday as investors weighed the prospects of some solid U.S. economic data against increasing discord in Egypt and worries that a rally that may be losing steam.
Data on Thursday includes U.S. December factory orders and the Institute for Supply Management's (ISM) January non-manufacturing index, both at 10 a.m..
Factory orders are expected to have declined by 0.5 percent in December after rising 0.7 percent in November. The December non-manufacturing ISM is expected to be read 57.0, about in-line with November.
Adding to caution was the U.S. non-farm payrolls report on Friday. Initial weekly jobless data is due Thursday at 8:30 a.m., and a Reuters poll shows claims are expected to drop to 420,000.
Better-than-expected readings of economic growth might not be enough to dislodge investor worries about rising unrest in Egypt, where gunmen fired on anti-government protesters in Cairo. The fighting killed six and wounded more than 800 people, prompting new calls from Western powers for President Hosni Mubarak to start handing over power immediately.
The S&P 500 <.SPX> started to look overbought for the second straight session after reaching 2 1/2-year highs on Tuesday as resistance near the 450 level for the PHLX Semiconductor Index <.SOX> suggested stocks were vulnerable to a correction.
S&P 500 futures slipped 1.4 points and were slightly below 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 7 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures fell 1.75 points.
Corporate results are likely to generate some interest, with the likes of Mastercard Inc
Dow Chemical Co
Retailers will also be in focus as companies post their monthly sales results. U.S. warehouse club operator Costco Wholesale Corp
European share prices fell after some earnings reports disappointed and as traders awaited details of the European Central Bank's two-day monetary policy meeting. <.EU>
Japan's Nikkei <.N225> fell 0.3 percent, easing slightly after posting its biggest jump in two months the day.
(Editing by W Simon and Padraic Cassidy)