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Stock futures little changed after retail sales, jobless claims

Thursday, 12 Dec 2013 | 9:21 AM ET

U.S. stock-index futures wavered between slight gains and losses on Thursday, after economic reports had retail sales climbing last month.

The Commerce Department reported U.S. retail sales rose 0.7 percent in November versus 0.6 percent the month before.

A separate report had initial jobless claims rising 68,000 to 368,000 last week.

Lululemon Athletica's shares dropped in pre-market trade after the Canadian yoga-wear chain reported third-quarter earnings that topped estimates, but projected flat same-store sales in the fourth quarter

Ciena fell sharply in early New York trading after the provider of fiber-optic networking gear for telecommunications companies reported fourth-quarter adjusted earnings of 16 cents a share, below Wall Street's expectations.

Facebook shares rose in pre-market trading after S&P Dow Jones Indices late Wednesday said the social-networking company would join the Standard & Poor's 500 Index next week.

Taper fears continue to weigh on global markets, with the possibility of an imminent budget deal in Washington seen as increasing the likelihood of the Federal Reserve starting to scale back its bond-buying program this year. With this in mind, investors are looking ahead to the Federal Open Market Committee's (FOMC) last policy meeting of the year next week.

(CNBC explains: taper)

On Tuesday, Senate Democrats and Republicans reached a deal to reduce automatic spending cuts and the deficit levels by $23 billion over two years. The budget still needs to pass a vote in both the Senate and the House of Representatives, but analysts told CNBC it would likely pass, with policymakers looking to avert another damaging government shutdown.

"The taper continues to dominate trading and thoughts at the moment," said Deutsche Bank's Jim Reid and Anthony Ip in a morning research note.

"News of a possible imminent U.S. budget deal must surely increase the probability... As such the deal creates a source of market volatility even if it should in theory be a welcome development."

Media reports on Wednesday named former Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer as the leading candidate for Fed vice-chair. Many commentators focused on his criticism of forward guidance on policy, which may have accelerated Wednesday's sell-off — the S&P 500 fell 1.13 percent in its worst day in more than a month.

Following the reports, European and Asian shares traded lower on Thursday morning.

"Reports that Stanley Fischer potentially being nominated for the vice-chair of the Fed could be having an impact, given he has said before that he opposes adjusting the Fed's forward guidance," said Chris Weston, market strategist at IG.

(Read more: Track European shares live)

—By CNBC's Katy Barnato

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