The futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 0.24 percent or 33 points, those on the Standard & Poor's 500 Index were down by 0.30 percent or 4.60 points and those on the Nasdaq 100 Index were trading lower by 0.33 percent or 9.25 points.
Investors are expected to focus on the earnings reports, with Comcast Apache Corporation (NYSE:APA), General Motors Company (NYSE:GM), PepsiCo Inc. (NYSE:PEP), Alpha Natural Resources Inc. (NYSE:ANR), DIRECTV (NASDAQ:DTV), Waste Management Inc. (NYSE:WM) and EOG Resources Inc. expected to announce their quarterly results before the market hours Thursday.
On the corporate front, the shares of tech giant Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO) remained in focus after the company reported the quarterly earnings and sales that marginally exceeded the market expectations late Wednesday. The company reported earnings of $3.1 billion or 59 cents per share for the quarter that ended Jan. 26 on revenue of $12.1 billion, up from $2.2 billion and 40 cents per share from the same time period a year ago. The analysts’ consensus estimate for the company was $12.07 billion in revenue and 48 cents per share, according to FactSet.
The markets were range-bound Wednesday after the data showed that retail sales rose a seasonally adjusted 0.1 percent in January, which was in line with expectations but slowdown in the sales, when compared to the previous month’s 0.5 percent growth, dragged down the consumer-oriented stocks. However, the slightly better-than-expected corporate earnings lifted the market sentiment.
Shares of General Electric (NYSE:GE) rose 3.6 percent and those of Comcast Corp (Nasdaq: CMCSA) rose 3 percent after GE said late Tuesday that it would sell its remaining stake in NBCUniversal to the latter.
The Dow Jones dropped 0.26 percent to close at 13,982.91, Nasdaq closed up 0.33 percent at 3,196.88 while S&P closed up 0.06 percent at 1,520.33.
The Asian markets mostly traded higher Thursday on improving risk sentiment while the Japanese currency steadied ahead of the meeting of the G20 finance ministers in Moscow Friday. Nikkei advanced 0.5 percent Thursday and ended at 11,307.3 after the Bank of Japan kept the key rates unchanged and upgraded its economic assessment citing positive signs from some of the European economies.
South Korea's Kospi traded flat after a three-week rally while India’s benchmark Sensex remained volatile and closed down 0.57 percent at 19,497.18. The Bank of Korea held the key interest rates unchanged for the fourth consecutive month. Markets in China and Taiwan remain closed for the Lunar New Year holidays while Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 0.9 percent and closed at 23,413.25 after the trade resumed Thursday after the holidays.
European stock markets remained volatile after a lower open amid the mixed corporate earnings report and weak GDP data from France and Germany. The economies of France and Germany shrank more than expected in the final quarter of 2012, hit by falling exports, data showed Thursday. France's GDP shrank 0.3 percent as against a growth of 0.1 percent in the previous quarter. GDP declined 0.3 percent for the full year. Germany’s economy contracted 0.6 percent in the fourth quarter against a growth of 0.2 percent in the third quarter.
London's FTSE 100 slid 0.46 percent while France's CAC-40 declined 0.62 percent and Germany's DAX 30 Index traded 0.97 percent down.