U.S. stock index futures held their losses Thursday, despite a better-than-expected jobless claims report, as investors continued to be nervous over some weak economic data from Europe and amid increasing concerns of a slowdown in China.
Futures were lower all morning after a report that showed China's manufacturing sector activity slumped in March for the fifth-straight monthwhile euro zone composite PMI showed an unexpected contraction, led by a decline in French and German factory activity.
Adding to woes, Portugal was hit by a 24-hour strike in protestat austerity measures. Meanwhile, Italy’s largest trade union has also called for a strike against a reform of the labor marketin the country.
“If you look at what happened after the last LTRO [Long-Term Refinancing Operation], Portugal was one of the few markets that didn’t participate in the nice rally in bonds that you saw in some other countries — Italy and Spain for example,” Rob Carnell, chief international economist at ING said. “It does look as if people are pushing towards the idea of a bailout later on in the year, maybe the third quarter of this year.”
On the economic front, weekly jobless claims declined 5,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 348,000, hitting a fresh four-year low, according to the Labor Department. Economists surveyed by Reuters had expected claims to gain to 354,000. Meanwhile, the four-week moving average for new claims fell 1,250 to 355,000.
Dow component McDonald’s will be in focus after CEO Jim Skinner announced that he will retire on June 30.
On the earnings front, FedEx slipped even after the economic bellwether topped earnings estimates, thanks to a record holiday season.
Dollar General gained after the retailer beat results and added it expects its upward momentum to continue throughout the year.
Lululemon Athletica slumped after the yoga-apparel retailer posted better-than-expected results, but handed in disappointing first-quarter and full-year earnings outlooks.
Nike and Accenture are slated to post earnings after-the-bell tonight.
Also on the economic front, the Conference Board's Leading Economic Index for February is due at 10 am ET. And the FHFA also reports home prices for January at 10 am ET.
—Follow JeeYeon Park on Twitter: @JeeYeonParkCNBC—
Coming Up This Week:
THURSDAY: FHFA home price index, leading indicators, Green Mountain Coffee shareholders mtg; Earnings from Nike, Accenture
FRIDAY: New home sales, Fed's Lockhart speaks, Fed's Bullard speaks; Earnings from Darden Restaurants
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