U.S. stock index futures pointed to a lower opening on Wall Street on Thursday, with futures for the S&P 500, the Dow Jones industrial average and Nasdaq 100 down 0.4 to 0.5 percent.
At 8.30 a.m. EST the Labor Department will release first-time claims numbers for jobless benefits for the week ended January 2. Economists in a Reuters survey forecast a total of 447,000 new filings compared with 432,000 in the prior week. This is ahead of the all-important government non-farm payrolls employment report due on Friday.
A top Federal Reserve official, James Bullard, said on Thursday, the labor market in the United States is improving and the economy is close to the point where the unemployment rate will start to fall.
The ICSC releases chain store sales for December versus a year ago. In the previous month, sales fell 0.3 percent versus a year ago.
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Japan's Nikkei stock average <.N225> lost 0.5 percent on Thursday, while European shares fell back from Wednesday's 15-month closing high as investors awaited the Bank of England's monthly interest rate decision.
The Dow and S&P 500 inched higher, while the Nasdaq dipped on Wednesday after Federal Reserve officials said they were still worried about labor market weakness and a report on the services sector showed only slight improvement in the economy.
The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> rose 0.02 percent, the Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> inched up 0.05 percent and the Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> dropped 0.3 percent.
(Reporting by Joanne Frearson; Editing by Greg Mahlich)