U.S. stock index futures were lower ahead of the open Thursday as investors looked to the next batch of corporate earnings to give direction to the trading day.
Nokia was among the biggest market weights in the morning after the telecommunications company reported profit that was lower than expected and a weak outlook for margins. Analysts had been expecting a strong report, and shares tumbled 13 percent in premarket trading on the disappointment.
Futures held their losses after government reports showed weekly jobless posting an expected drop after three weeks of gains and core inflation still tame.
The major indexes closed flat at the end of Wednesday's session. But eBay and Qualcomm also disappointed investors with their outlooks. Starbucksshares moved higher after hours on strong earnings.
Pepsi beat market expectations with earnings of 89 cents a share but weak revenue disappointed investors and shares edged lower premarket.
The markets have had a mixed week so far, although the Dow has registered gains in nine of the past ten trading days.
About a quarter of the companies in the Standard & Poor's 500 have reported earnings so far, and more than 80 percent of those companies have beaten expectations.
European shares were lower with banking stocks falling as concerns over Greece's debt situation continued. Asian stocks ended mixed after the lackluster U.S. close.
Even though U.S. stocks looked set to get off to a negative start, one investor thinks the overall trend remains higher.
"The market is clearly in an up trend… we don't expect that to change any time soon as long as the trend is to spend in the U.S. as well as by other major central banks worldwide," Aaron Smith from Superfund Financial told CNBC Thursday.
"Anyone who has any sense from a technical standpoint would be long," Smith added.
Among the companies scheduled to release earnings Thursday morning: AutoNation, BB&T, Fifth Third, Hershey, Kimberly-Clark, Southwest Air, Marriott, New York Times, Pepsico, Philip Morris International, PNC Bank, Raytheon, Sherwin-Williams, Union Pacific, Verizon, and Zimmer Holdings.
After-the-bell reports include quarterly numbers from Amazon.com, American Express, and Microsoft.
Thursday's economic calendar includes the Labor Department's weekly look at initial jobless claims at 8:30 am New York time, with economists looking for 460,000 new claims compared with last week's reading of 484,000. At the same time, the government issues the March Producer Price Index, expected to register a 0.4 percent rise following a decline of 0.6 percent in February. The core rate, which excludes food and energy, is seen repeating the February reading of a 0.1 percent increase.
At 10 am, the National Association of Realtors issues existing home sales numbers for March. Consensus estimates call for a 3.8 percent increase, following a 0.6 percent drop in February
President Obama will give a speech at New York's Cooper Union College, expected to focus on financial regulation reform. It is scheduled to start at 11:55 am.
Meanwhile, Moody's has cut its credit rating on automakerToyota to its lowest level ever, saying problems stemming from its recalls could pressure profits through 2012.
Qwest Communications and CenturyTel are in advanced merger talks and a deal could come within 24-48 hours, according to the Wall Street Journal. It would be one of the biggest telecom deals in recent years.
And various initial public offerings were priced at the low end or below the expected range. The list includes: Codexis, DynaVox, Alimera, Global Geophysical, and SPS Commerce.