U.S. stock index futures shaved their losses Thursday, helped by better-than-expected jobless claims report, though disappointing earnings from Wal-Mart weighed.
On the economic front, jobless claims declined 24,000 to a seasonally adjusted 297,000, according to the Labor Department. That was the lowest reading since May 2007 and brought claims back to their pre-recession level. Economists polled by Reuters had expected a reading of 320,000.
New York manufacturers posted a strong growth in activity in May, with the index rising to 19.01 in May, after it slowed to 1.29 in April, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York's monthly Empire State Manufacturing Survey.
Meanwhile, consumer prices ticked up 0.3 percent, as expected, recording their largest increase in 10 months in April, signaling some inflation in the economy. And industrial production in April slid 0.6 percent, versus estimates for a gain of 0.2 percent.
The Philadelphia Federal Reserve report for May will be reported at 10 am ET. The NAHB housing market index is also expected at the same time.
Among earnings, Dow-listed Wal-Mart and small rival Kohl's reported first-quarter numbers that disappointed.
Wal-Mart missed Wall Street's estimates, and became the latest company to lay blame on the weather.
Meanwhile, Kohl's also posted earnings and revenue that fell short of Street estimates.
Cisco Systems rallied after the network equipment maker handed in fourth-quarter revenue guidance that topped Wall Street estimates. At least 18 analysts boosted their price target on the company.
Fed Chair Janet Yellen is scheduled to address the U.S. Chamber of Commerce after the market closes.
U.S. stocks declined on Wednesday after a five-day winning streak, suggesting an uptick in risk-off market sentiment.
This was highlighted by comments on Wednesday evening by David Tepper, a closely-watched hedge fund manager at Appaloosa Management.
"I'm not saying go short, I'm just saying don't be too fricking long right now," he told an audience at SkyBridge Capital's conference in Las Vegas.
Among his concerns were weaker-than-expected U.S. growth and a European Central Bank that badly needs to ease monetary policy.