Wall Street was poised for a higher open on Thursday with retail stocks in focus after Best Buy reported higher-than-expected profit, but light trading volume suggested the optimism was limited.
With the quarter-end approaching, portfolio managers will be buyers as they execute some window dressing, and hedge funds will cover short positions that are under pressure.
We are at the quarter end, and the fact that we've had a good earnings season, continued expansion of the economy and also relatively cheap valuation (in stocks) looking forward is helping the market, said Peter Kenny, managing director at Knight Equity Markets in New Jersey.
Futures slipped slightly after data showed durable goods orders unexpectedly fell in February, hinting at decelerating manufacturing activity. But new U.S. jobless claims declined as forecast, with the four-week moving average dropping to it lowest level in more than 2-1/2 years.
We've started hitting these ranges in jobless claims. We need to see it come down further. When the number is stalled, it doesn't do anything for anyone, even if it is better than expected, said Dan Cook, senior market analyst at IG Markets in Chicago.
Best Buy Co Inc
S&P 500 futures rose 7.6 points, off earlier highs, and were above 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 added 59 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 17 points.
Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates resigned and warned of grave consequences for the country after parliament rejected his government's latest austerity measures aimed at avoiding a bailout. The resignation increased expectations Lisbon will seek international aid. It also threw into disarray a European Union summit later this week expected to address the region's debt crisis.
Western warplanes hit Libya for a fifth night, but have failed to stop Muammar Gaddafi's tanks from shelling rebel-held towns.
Stores in Tokyo were running out of bottled water after radiation from a damaged nuclear complex briefly made tap water unsafe for babies, while more nations curbed imports of Japanese food.
(Reporting by Angela Moon; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)