Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, February 1, 2011. REUTERS

The U.S. stock index futures point to a slightly lower open Thursday ahead of the Labor Department's weekly jobless claims data.

The futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average were down 0.07 percent, the futures on the Standard & Poor's 500 Index were down 0.08 percent and those on the Nasdaq 100 Index were down 0.18 percent.

Investors are likely to focus on the weekly U.S. jobless claims data to be reported Thursday. The initial jobless claims report, which measures the number of individuals who filed for unemployment insurance for the first time last week, is expected to rise to 380,000 in the week ending Dec. 1, down from 393,000 in the previous week.

On Wednesday, the U.S. stocks were mixed as investor confidence was lifted amid the hope that the Congress would soon reach a deal to ward off the fiscal cliff. Market players were optimistic after President Barack Obama commented that a deal to avert the fiscal cliff was possible in a week provided the Republicans were favoring a tax increase on the wealthiest Americans.

Meanwhile, according to the data released Wednesday by Automatic Data Processing, private-sector employers added 118,000 jobs in November, down from158,000 in October.

According to the data released Wednesday by the Commerce Department, factory orders rose 0.8 percent in October, down from a 4.8 percent increase in September. The Institute for Supply Management’s non-manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index for November, which was also released Wednesday, showed a rise to 54.7 compared to 54.2 in October.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.64 percent, the S&P 500 Index was up 0.16 percent and the Nasdaq Composite Index dropped 0.77 percent.

Asian stocks were mixed Thursday as it was reported that South Korea's economic growth slowed in the third quarter of this year compared to that in the previous quarter. The data released by the Bank of Korea Thursday showed that the country’s gross domestic product rose 0.1 percent in the third quarter, down from 0.3 percent in the second quarter.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng fell 16.39 points, South Korea’s Kospi Composite Index rose 2.58 points, Japan’s Nikkei was up 76.32 points and India’s Sensex declined 139.25 points.

European markets rose Thursday tracking the upbeat overnight cues from the U.S. London's FTSE 100 was up 0.76 points, Germany's DAX 30 index rose 12.34 points and France's CAC 40 gained 10.61 points.