(REUTERS) -- Wall Street stocks were set to open little changed on Thursday as concerns about a possible downgrade of global banks by Moody's were offset by upbeat U.S. data on the labor and housing sectors.
New U.S. claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell last week to a near four-year low, suggesting the labor market was finally strengthening.
Also, U.S. housing starts rose more than forecast in January as groundbreaking on rental property surged.
The jobless data is another brick in the wall, another example of the fact that slowly but surely -- slower than we'd like -- our economy is bouncing back, said Mike Shea, a managing partner and trader at Direct Access Partners LLC in New York.
Still, global macro issues are always going to trump what's going on in the U.S., at least this global issue (Europe).
Moody's said it may cut the credit ratings of 17 global and 114 European financial institutions in another sign the impact of the Eurozone debt crisis was spreading. Among the banks listed were Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Bank of America Corp.
Morgan Stanley shares were down 1.5 percent at $18.67 in premarket trade.
Greece must initiate a debt swap with private bondholders by Friday to meet a March 20 deadline to repay 14.5 billion euros ($18.87 billion) in debt. Even if a deal is reached by Monday, sources have told Reuters that Eurozone officials may delay part or possibly all of the second bailout, while still avoiding a disorderly default.
S&P 500 futures dipped 0.9 point 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 rose 5 points, while Nasdaq 100 futures were flat.
Google Inc. shares will be in view after a Chinese official said the Commerce Ministry was reviewing its planned $12.5 billion purchase of Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc .
Authorities ordered retailers in more Chinese cities to remove take Apple Inc iPad tablets off shelves, according to reports, due to a trademark battle between a Chinese technology firm and Apple.
NetApp Inc. shares jumped 6.1 percent to $42.30 in premarket trade after the data storage equipment maker reported results in line with Wall Street projections late Wednesday.
AMR Corp., the parent company of American Airlines, posted a fourth-quarter loss on non-cash charges and reorganization items. The company filed for bankruptcy protection in November.
U.S. stocks fell on Wednesday for the third time in four sessions, with market direction largely dictated by swings in the shares of Apple Inc., the world's most valuable company.
(Reporting by Angela Moon; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)