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Wall Street edgy after rising on dovish Fed

U.S. stock index futures indicated a flat to lower open on Thursday, after closing sharply higher Wednesday following a dovish statement from the U.S. Federal Reserve, which indicated that rate hike may come later rather than sooner.

The Fed dropped the word "patient" from its March meeting statement, a subtle indication that the era of zero interest rates could end in the coming months. However, the U.S. central bank was seen as broadly dovish, with the Federal Open Market Committee lowering its December rate outlook by about 50 basis points.

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"Just because we removed the word 'patient' does not mean we will become impatient," Fed Chair Janet Yellen said at a post-meeting news conference, prompting many economists to shift their expectations of a rate rise from June to September.

Janet Yellen, Chair of the Federal Reserve.
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Janet Yellen, Chair of the Federal Reserve.

Weekly jobless claims rose slightly to 291,000 for the week ended March 14. The national current account deficit sharply widened in the fourth quarter to the largest level since 2012.

Data expected on Thursday include the Philly Fed's business outlook index at 10.00 a.m. ET, along with the Conference Board's Leading Indicator for February.

Lennar posted better-than-expected quarterly profit and revenue, indicating some pickup in the housing market heading into the spring. The second-largest U.S. homebuilder by the number of homes sold said deliveries rose 20 percent in the first quarter and average selling price rose to $326,000 from $316,000.

Vince reported earnings that beat forecasts on revenue that missed. The high-end clothing firm reported fiscal fourth-quarter profit of $10.5 million.

Nike is due to report after the bell.

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EBay was downgraded to "underweight" from "neutral" by Piper Jaffray's Gene Munster, who cited concern about impact to PayPal from payment options Google Wallet, Apple Pay, Facebook, Samsung and traditional banks. Munster also cut the price target to $49 from $55.

Across the Atlantic, European equities traded higher after the Fed's dovish comments, with all European indices and sectors except the German DAX trading in positive territory.

Wires contributed to this report.