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Wall Street turns a weather-eye to durable goods data

U.S. stock index futures signaled a lower start to Wall Street trade on Thursday, ahead of monthly durable goods data and weekly initial jobless claims.

The durable goods orders report will be out at 8:30 a.m. ET, and is seen showing a sharp fall in January, following a decline at the end of 2013.

(Track: US bond markets live)

"The drop in orders already reported by Boeing last month all but guarantees that durable goods orders, contracted again in January," said Capital Economics' Paul Ashworth in a research note on Wednesday afternoon.

"There is a risk that the severe weather, which we already know hit manufacturing output in January, may have compounded the decline in orders too," he added.

(Read more: Boeing develops self-destruct phone)

Jobless claims numbers will also be out at 8:30 a.m. and will be followed by natural gas inventories for last week at 10:30 a.m.

In addition, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen is scheduled to speak before the Senate Banking Committee at 10 a.m., in her second congressional testimony this month.

(Read more: One thing Yellen could say that may worry markets)

In her last appearance, Yellen emphasized that the Fed would continue to taper its now-$65 billion-a-month bond-buying program unless there was a notable change in the economy. Traders expect another cut of $10 billion in March.

"Though much of her testimony will be similar to her February 11 appearance at the House Financial Services, there have been a few more data releases since that day and markets will be wondering what she has to say on the weather-effect now that the worst of the storms appear to have passed," said Deutsche Bank's Jim Reid and Anthony Ip in a note.

Earnings due before the start of Wall Street trade on Thursday include LKQ, Mylan Labs, Ocwen and Sempra Energy.

(Track: European markets live)

On Wednesday, the blue-chip Dow finished 0.2 percent higher. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq also squeezed out small gains, with the latter briefly hitting a 14-year high.

—By CNBC's Katy Barnato

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