U.S. stock index futures pointed to a slightly lower open on Thursday as the number of first-time claims for jobless benefits rose unexpectedly, highlighting the bumpy ride for employment as economic growth picks up.
Initial unemployment claims posted their biggest jump in six months, suggesting that despite signs of economic improvement, the labor market still faced headwinds.
In a potentially encouraging sign, however, continuing claims retreated sharply to 3.88 million from 4.13 million.
The number adds fuel to the debate over the real health of the labor market after last week's payroll number, said Andrew Wilkinson, senior market analyst at Interactive Brokers Group in Greenwich, Connecticut. But while this is mildly disappointing, it isn't enough to throw a kink into the idea the global recovery.
Producer prices rose more than expected in December as energy and food costs surged. Underlying inflation remained subdued.
Coming off a broad rally in the previous session, traders looked ahead to Intel Corp's
S&P 500 futures fell 2.6 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 were down 8 points and Nasdaq 100 futures fell 1.75 points.
Deere & Co
Equities have advanced since the start of December in part on hopes that earnings would be strong, though in recent sessions renewed fears over a European sovereign debt crisis partially obscured some strong early results, including from Alcoa Inc
Spain followed Portugal with a successful debt sale on Thursday, and investors showed growing confidence that governments would agree to new measures to stem the debt crisis.
EXCO Resources Inc
(Editing by Padraic Cassidy)