U.S. stock index futures clawed higher again in choppy trading Thursday as jobless claims fell unexpectedly in the previous week and after the latest Chinese inflation and industrial production reports raised odds of further action by the country's central bank.
Meanwhile, gains were limited as optimism over the ECB to tackle the region's debt crisis grew stale and following a four-day rallyfor the Dow and S&P 500.
On the economic front, weekly jobless claims unexpectedly fell last week, slipping 6,000 to a seasonally adjusted 361,000, according to the Labor Department. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims rising to 370,000 last week. The four-week moving average for new claims rose 2,250 to 368,250. (Read More—Economy Should Be Growing Much Faster: Rosenberg)
Trade deficit narrowed 10.7 to $42.9 billion in June, the smallest in 1-1/2 years as lower oil prices curbed imports, according to the Commerce Department. Economists polled by Reuters had expected the trade gap to narrow to $47.5 billion.
In China, reports showed inflation fell to a 30-month lowand industrial production dropped to the lowest in just over three-years. Retail sales numbers also missed expectations, suggesting that the “hard landing” scenario for China may be underway. (Read More: China’s Slowdown Is So Bad, the Market's Cheering)
JPMorgan slipped after the bank revised its first-quarter results to show a lower profit, after deciding that the value of certain derivatives held by its main investment arm was overstated. The reduction reflects a pre-tax loss of almost $6 billion during its "London Whale" trading debacle earlier this year.