Stock index futures fell slightly after news that jobless claims fell last week and remain below 400,000.
Initial claims for unemployment fell to a seasonally-adjusted 388,000 for the week ended March 26, from a revised 394,000 the week before, the Labor Department reported. Claims last week were previously reported at 382,000.
Investors remain focused unrest in the Middle East and Japan’s nuclear crisis, but appear to remain confident in the global economic recovery as stocks keep rising. The market is poised to post the best quarterly results since 1998.
Rebels were still fighting for control of the east Libyan town of Brega on Thursday amid ongoing discussion as to whether Western forces should arm rebels in Libya, Reuters reported.
The situation also remained tense in Bahrain, but the military there has made it clear it will not tolerate any more public demonstrations. Meanwhile in Syria, President Bashar al-Assad refused to meet protesters’ demands.
Oil prices rose strongly on Thursday. U.S. light sweet crude rose above $105 a barrel and London Brent crude rose above $116.
Elsewhere in economic news, the Chicago purchasing managers index is released at 9:45 am and is seen falling to 69.5 in March from 71.2 in February.
February factory orders will be released at 10:00 a.m. and are forecast to rise 0.4 percent according to economists polled by Briefing.com.