U.S. stock index futures point to a slightly higher open on Thursday ahead of another round of quarterly earnings reports by major corporations and the publication of the Labor Department's weekly jobless claims data.
Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average were up 0.16 percent, the futures on the Standard & Poor's 500 Index were up 0.08 percent and those on the Nasdaq 100 Index were up 0.15 percent.
Market participants are expected to keep a close watch on corporate earnings as companies including United Parcel Service Inc. (NYSE: UPS), Dow Chemical Company (NYSE: DOW), Colgate-Palmolive Company (NYSE: CL), ConocoPhillips (NYSE: COP), 3M Co (NYSE: MMM), Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC), Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN), Exxon Mobil Corp (NYSE: XOM) and Starbucks Corp (NASDAQ: SBUX) will report their quarterly earnings on Thursday.
On the economic front, the Department of Labor is due to report the initial jobless claims report, which measures the number of individuals who filed for unemployment insurance for the first time last week, before the markets open on Thursday. Economists expect initial jobless claims to be 350,000 for the week ending Apr. 20, down from 352,000 in the previous week.
Shares of Cliffs Natural Resources Inc (NYSE: CLF), Qualcomm Inc. (NASDAQ: QCOM) and Western Digital Corp. (NASDAQ: WDC) will remain in focus after their quarterly earnings were reported on late Wednesday. Qualcomm shares plunged 5.76 percent in after-market trading Wednesday as its full year earnings forecast fell short of expectations. Currently, Qualcomm expects fiscal 2013 adjusted net profit to be in a range of $4.40 to $4.45 earnings per share, below analysts’ estimation of $4.53 per share.
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U.S. stock markets ended mixed Wednesday as sentiment was weighed down by a mixed bag of corporate earnings and weaker-than-expected reading on durable-goods orders. The Dow Jones Industrial Average declined 0.29 percent and the Nasdaq Composite Index gained 0.01 percent, while the S&P 500 Index was nearly unchanged.
Data released by the Census Bureau on Wednesday showed that durable goods, which measure the change in the total value of new orders for long lasting manufactured goods, plunged 5.7 percent in March following a downwardly revised 4.3 percent gain in February and also came in worse than analysts' estimate of a 2.8 percent decline.
European stock markets appeared mixed in the opening minutes of the trade. London's FTSE 100 gained 0.37 percent, France's CAC-40 declined 0.25 percent and Germany's DAX rose 0.12 percent.
Asian stock markets mostly advanced Thursday after official data showed that South Korea recorded better-than-expected economic growth in the first quarter. GDP growth improved to 0.9 percent in the first quarter compared 0.3 percent in the previous three months. On an annual basis, GDP growth rate was unchanged at 1.5 percent while analysts expected a 0.7 percent quarterly and a 1.4 percent annual growth.
Japan’s Nikkei gained 0.60 percent, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng advanced 0.85 percent and South Korea’s KOSPI Composite surged 0.84 percent while India's Sensex advanced 0.79 percent and Chinese Shanghai Composite declined 0.86 percent.