Wall Street was set for a lower open on Thursday after a report showed the U.S. economy grew less than expected in the first quarter and a number of companies pointed to rising costs.
U.S. economic growth slowed more than forecast in the first three months of the year as higher food and gasoline prices dampened consumer spending and sent a broad measure of inflation rising at its fastest pace in 2-1/2 years. Growth was 1.8 percent compared to a Reuters consensus estimate of 2 percent.
In Wednesday's session the Nasdaq hit a 10-year high on the prospect of continued low interest rates and liquidity until the end of June, after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's first-ever news conference.
With the amount of injection of capital into the economy, you'd hope that we would be able to get above 2 percent growth, said William Larkin, a portfolio manager with Cabot Money Management. In the short-term this is bad for stocks and good for bonds.
S&P 500 futures fell 2.3 points and were 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 dropped 19 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures lost 4.5 points.
In a Labor Department report, new U.S. claims for unemployment benefits surprisingly rose last week to their highest level since January in a sign an anticipated recovery in labor markets may take time.
Earnings season has been strong but there were signs of creeping costs from some companies. Procter & Gamble Co
Rising costs were also in evidence at Starbucks Corp
But many investors are bullish, with around three-quarters of S&P 500 companies beating Wall Street's earnings forecasts so far and with the prospect of continued low interest rates at least until the end of the year.
The 'sell in May and go away' is not likely to happen this year, said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Avalon Partners, referring to an old stock market adage about the traditionally weaker May and summer months for equities.
U.S. crude oil futures rose to their highest in 2-1/2 years and metal prices rallied as the Fed appeared in no rush to tighten monetary policy. Spot gold hit a record at $1,534.30 an ounce.
The dollar sank to a three-year low against a basket of currencies and was at risk of a drop to $1.50 versus the euro, with momentum-driven investors anticipating that U.S. interest rates will be low for a long time.
(Editing by Padraic Cassidy)