U.S. stock index futures pointed to a slightly negative open Thursday in the wake of a strong rally for the Dow Jones Industrial Average in the previous session. But volatility looked set to remain.
Futures had been trending higher but surrendered gains after the weekly jobless report showed claims fell only slightly to 444,000, signaling continuing weakness in employment.
The Dow has registered triple-digit moves in nine of the past twelve sessions. And Wednesday's gains saw the Dow wipe out nearly all of the 500-point loss registered last Thursday and Friday, which included the wild intraday swing that's prompted investigations from lawmakers and regulators.
European shares gave back early gains to trade mixed as banking stocks turned red. Asian stocks ended mostly higher with the Nikkei 225 up more than 2 percent.
"I think you’re going to see continued volatility … higher-quality names with dividends give you more downside protection, the ability to navigate these rocky markets," Matt McCormick, banking analyst and portfolio manager at Bahl and Gaynor Investment Counsel, told CNBC.
Thursday's economic calendar includes the Labor Department's weekly report on initial jobless claims, expected to drop to 440,000 from last week's reading of 444,000. At the same time, the government will report import and export prices for the month of April.
The Treasury will sell $16 billion in 30-year bonds later, after seeing strong demand at its auctions of 3-year and 10-year notes. The results will be available shortly after 1 pm New York time. Treasurys prices were flat in early trading
On the earnings front, Cisco Systemsbeat analyst expectations for both earnings and revenue in its latest quarter.
Sybase shares soared Thursday on reports that it was in talks to be acquired by SAP .That deal was officially announced later in the day, with SAP paying $65 per share in cash.
Several Fed speakers are on the agenda, including retiring Vice Chairman Donald Kohn, who will make a 9 am appearance in Ottawa, Canada. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke will participate in a Q&A session at an event in Philadelphia at 12:30 pm. Minneapolis Fed President Kocherlakota and Dallas Fed President Fisher are also scheduled to speak during the day.