Futures edge higher after jobless claims, GDP; FB hits $50
U.S. stock index futures edged higher Thursday following the latest reading on jobless claims and GDP, but gains were limited amid ongoing concerns about the lack of progress in Washington's budget talks.
On the economic front, the government left its estimate for economic growth in the second quarter unchanged at 2.5 percent, according to the Commerce Department. The department also said the price index for consumer purchases dipped at 0.1 percent rate.
"Today's GDP report clarifies many Wall Street uncertainties. For one, the 2.5 percent print validates the 'no-change' decision in QE," said Todd Schoenberger, managing partner at LandColt Capital. "Second, it's obvious with a looming government shutdown and a drop in household discretionary incomes due to implementation of the Affordable Care Act, the upcoming quarter will be significantly lower. Thus, forcing the hand of the Fed to maintain status quo in regards to its current monetary policy for the foreseeable future."
And weekly jobless claims fell 5,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 305,000, according to the Labor Department. The four-week average of new claims fell 7,000 to 308,000, the lowest level since June 2007.
Pending home sales for August is due at 10 am ET.
Budget spending must be agreed by Congress before October 1, next Tuesday, to prevent a government shutdown which could involve federal employees facing unpaid temporary leave and a delay in the payment of military personnel. Most analysts expect a deal to be reached, even if it is at the last minute, since lawmakers are unlikely to want to risk any fallout at the 2014 Congressional elections.
(Read more: Brawl in US Congress – should the world care?)
Meanwhile, the debt ceiling must be extended until later in October to allow the Treasury to continue borrowing money and honor its debt repayments.
"Even if this most immediate hurdle (the budget) is safely negotiated, any meaningful proposal to tackle the debt ceiling, which the Treasury Secretary says will be reached on October 17, is not yet even under discussion. So expect plenty of fiscal noise out of the U.S. for the next few weeks at least," said Daiwa Capital's Grant Lewis in a morning research note.
Nonetheless, the Japanese Nikkei reversed losses on Thursday, closing at a one-week high after falling over 1 percent earlier in the session. This followed reports from Kyodo News that the Japanese government was "urgently" considering a reduction in corporate tax rates, which could offset any negative impact from the consumption tax hike scheduled for October 1.
(Read more: Is Abenomics' second arrow missing its target?)
However, China's benchmark index fell to its lowest level since September 9, as investors booked profits on stocks that have rallied ahead of the opening of a free trade zone in Shanghai on Sunday. Plus, a nation-wide business survey, known as China's Beige Book, showed economic conditions were worse than recent positive data had suggested.
JCPenney tumbled more than 8 percent, briefly falling below $9 for the first time since Dec. 2000. The struggling retailer is seeking to raise as much as $1 billion in new equity to build up cash reserves ahead of the holiday season, according to a Reuters report. Meanwhile, Citigroup cut its price target on the company to $7 from $11.
Facebook climbed after Jefferies lifted its price target on the social-networking giant to $60 from $37. Shares of the company have surged an impressive 85 percent year to date.
Several Federal Reserve officials members are due to speak, including Jeremy Stein (a voting member of the Federal Reserve Open Market Committee), Narayana Kocherlakota and Sandra Pianalto.
In the bond markets, the Treasury will sell $29 billion of 7-year notes with the results available shortly after 1pm ET.
—By CNBC's JeeYeon Park (Follow JeeYeon on Twitter: @JeeYeonParkCNBC)
On Tap This Week:
THURSDAY: Pending home sales, natural gas inventories, Fed Kocherlakota speaks, 7-yr note auction, Fed balance sheet/money supply, Fed's George speaks, weekly rail numbers; Earnings from Nike, Accenture
FRIDAY: Fed's Evans speaks, personal income & outlays, consumer sentiment, Fed's Dudley speaks, farm prices; Earnings from BlackBerry
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