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Futures Hold Lower On Mixed Economic News

Thursday, 31 Jan 2013 | 8:43 AM ET

U.S. stock index futures pointed to a slightly lower open on Thursday as economic reports showed a mixed bag on the state of the recovery.

On the heels of Wednesday's reported contraction in economic growth, the government said Thursday that weekly jobless claims rose after two weeks of declines, though personal income rose sharply and spending gained as well.

After Wednesday's gross domestic product shock, the economy delivered more news that presented a cloudy picture: Jobless claims jumped 38,000 in the past week, while personal income surged 2.6 percent, well ahead of estimates, and personal spending rose 0.2 percent.

"December's personal income and spending figures should confirm the message from the release of the GDP report for the fourth quarter– the fall in GDP is unlikely to be repeated in the first quarter as the underlying trends in both income and consumption are healthy," wrote David Madani, an economist at independent research firm Capital Economics, in a note on Wednesday afternoon.

An earlier report showed that both planned layoffs and planned hiring increased in January. Challenger, Gray & Christmas said U.S. firms announced 40,430 job cuts in January, down more than 24 percent from a year ago, while hiring announcements rose by 60,585.

In earnings, Dow Chemical reported earnings excluding items of 33 cents a share, pressured by restructuring and weakness in China and Europe. Share fell 3.3 percent in premarket trading.

Also, UPS missed on the top and bottom lines with earnings of $1.32 a share, 6 cents short of estimates, sending its shares down nearly 2 percent.

Facebook shares continued to retreat, a day after the social networking company reported earnings that beat on the top and bottom line but raised concerns among investors. The company said it expects expenses to grow significantly this year.

"While we are broadly supportive of Facebook's longer-term strategy, the material increase in 2013 spending pressures valuation, making the stock less attractive to own on a near-term basis," analysts at Jefferies said in a note that cut the stock from a buy to a hold.

Facebook shares dropped 6.5 percent in premarket trading and are likely to open below $30 for the first time in nearly two weeks.

Also, the Energy Department will issue its weekly look at natural gas inventories across the U.S. at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday. Inventories fell by 172 billion cubic feet in the prior week. Earlier on Thursday, Shell CEO Peter Voser told CNBC Europe that he doesn't expect a major recovery in natural gas prices, despite the Nymex-traded futures contract rebounding 24 percent from a year ago.

The Chicago Purchasing Managers Index of manufacturing activity is due at 9:45 a.m. on Thursday. Analysts polled by Reuters expect the index to rise to 50.5 in January from 48.9 in December. PMI index readings above 50 signal an increase or improvement on the prior month, while readings below 50 indicate a decrease.

In a big day for earnings, AstraZeneca will post fourth quarter results before the start of morning trade in the U.S., along with Colgate-Palmolive, Dow Chemical, Viacom, Time Warner Cable, Hershey, LVMH and UPS.

Earlier on Thursday, Germany's Deutsche Bank released full-year earnings posting a big loss following writedowns. But shares were 2.5 percent higher after the lender reported better than expected capital ratios.

Meanwhile, the world's largest spirits-maker, Diageo, released first-half results showing a 5 percent rise in organic sales. But growth in earnings per share slowed and the company said sales in Southern Europe remained lackluster; shares were down 1.65 percent.

- By CNBC's Katy Barnato

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