Street futures lower on jobless claims

U.S. stock-index futures traded lower on Thursday after higher-than-expected jobless claims.

Earlier, futures turned positive after Vladimir Putin said Russia would do "everything in our power" to end the bloodshed in Ukraine.

The Department of Labor reported an increase to 311,000 in claims for unemployment benefits, above forecasts of 295,000, from 289,000 in the previous week.

Earlier, the futures index struggled for direction, ahead of the usual weekly first-time jobless claims.

Other data out Thursday include import and export prices for July and natural gas inventories for last week.

In corporate news, Wal-Mart reported earnings that were in line with analysts' expectation. Kohl's reported better-than-expected earnings but fell a little short on revenues.

Cisco Systems moved lower in pre-market trading after the networking equipment maker reported earnings and revenue that beat estimates but said it would cut 6,000 jobs, or 8 percent of its workforce.

Noodles & Co. declined more than 23 percent in pre-market trading as the restaurant firm reported disappointing earnings and revenue for its second quarter.

After Wall Street closes, there will be numbers from Nordstrom and JC Penney.

Geopolitical events

In a speech in Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in March, Putin said: "We will do everything in our power so that this conflict is ended as soon as possible, so that the blood can stop flowing in Ukraine.'' The Russian president added: "We need to consolidate and mobilize but not for war or any kind of confrontation ... for hard work in the name of Russia.''

The comments boosted the U.S. futures market.

Earlier, Kiev denounced Russia's dispatch of a humanitarian aid convoy and said the trucks would not be allowed to pass. Reports on Thursday morning said that the aid trucks were currently standing idle at a military base in Voronezh in Russia, near the Ukrainian border.

In the Middle East, Israel and Palestinian factions agreed to extend the truce for five more days on Wednesday, and held indirect talks in Egypt for a more comprehensive agreement about Gaza.

In the Iraq crisis, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said late Wednesday there was less of chance for a U.S. rescue of stranded Yazidi refugees because U.S. military personnel found fewer people trapped on a mountain than expected.

U.S. shares ended Wednesday with gains, on the back of surging tech, airline and biotech shares. The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 0.6 percent, with Intel leading blue-chip gains.The S&P 500 added 0.7 percent while the tech-heavy Nasdaq bolstered 1 percent.

U.S.retail sales were unexpectedly flat in July, data from the Commerce Department showed on Wednesday, held back by a second straight month of declines in receipts at auto dealers, as well as weak sales of furniture, electronics and appliances. July's reading was the weakest since January.