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US stock futures moderate losses after jobless claims drop

U.S. stock-index futures signaled a mildly lower open on Thursday after economic reports had import prices rising in March and jobless claims dipping more than expected last week.

Stock-index futures were down 0.1 percent after the Labor Department reported jobless claims fell by 32,000 to 300,000 in the week ending April 5, dropping to a near seven-year low and below the 320,000 estimated by economists polled by Reuters.

A separate report showed U.S. import prices climbing 0.6 percent, versus expectations of a 0.2 percent rise.

On Wednesday, stocks rallied after the publication of dovish minutes from the latest Federal Reserve meeting.

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The minutes from the Fed's meeting on March 18-19 revealed that its committee was unanimous in hope to keep interest rates low for the foreseeable future, which quashed fears of a sooner-than-expected rate hike.

"The statement that accompanied March's Federal Open Market Committee meeting suggests policymakers may deem it appropriate to keep the federal funds rate below 'normal' levels even after employment and inflation are near mandate-consistent levels," said John Higgins of Capital Economics in a research note on Thursday afternoon.

Gains in Asia were pared by weak Chinese data. Exports slumped 6.6 percent in March, well below estimates for a 4 percent gain. Imports fell an annualized 11.3 percent, versus forecasts for a 2.4 percent rise.

Companies reporting quarterly earnings early on Thursday include Commerce Bancshares, Family Dollar, Pier 1 Imports, Rite Aid, Shaw Communications and Fastenal.

The G-20 finance ministers and central bank governors will meet on Thursday in Washington DC, timed to coincide with the International Monetary Fund/World Bank meetings, which start on Friday.




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