US stocks modestly lower in early trade on Thursday despite the Department of Labor reported that weekly jobless claims fell sharply last week.
The S&P 500 Index declined 0.16 points, or 0.01 percent, to trade at 1,259.51 at 9:45 a.m. EDT. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 6.17 points, or 0.05 percent, to trade at 11,579.21. The Nasdaq Composite Index declined 0.04 percent.
The Department of Labor reported that initial jobless claims declined by 34,000 to 388,000 for the week ended December 25 from the previous week's revised figure of 422,000, while economists expected 416,000. The 4-week moving average of initial claims decreased 12,500 to 414,000 from the previous week's revised average of 426,500.
The National Association of Realtors' pending home sales index, a forward-looking indicator that looks at contracts signed for existing homes, is due to be released at 10:00 am EDT and is expected to show that November sales increased by 2.1 percent continuing the prior gain of 10.4 percent in the previous month.
On the corporate front, Endo Pharmaceuticals Holdings advanced 3.07 percent after the U.S. FDA approved its Fortesta Gel for the treatment of low testosterone (hypogonadism), a medical condition characterised by low sex drive, poor erections, and depression, among others.
VisionChina Media Inc. (VISN) surged 10.34 percent after Focus Media Holding Ltd. (FMCN) agreed to buy 15.33 million VisionChina shares at $3.979 apiece, equivalent to $3.979 per ADS, for about $61.0 million.
Despite a last-hour market sell-off, stocks gained modestly in thin trading volume on Wednesday as the major indices look to be on course for a strong December rally.
The euro advanced 0.53 percent to 1.3295 against the dollar and the yen gained 0.12 percent against the greenback.
Crude oil futures declined 1.09 percent to $90.13/barrel ahead of inventory data and gold futures declined 0.25 percent.
European stock markets are currently trading lower with FTSE 100 down by 16.27 points, DAX30 down by 81.28 points and CAC 40 down by 37.08 points.