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Wall Street digests more data, eyes jobs report

U.S. stock index futures pointed to a softer open on Thursday, amid of a raft of data as investors prepared for a shorter week due to the Easter vacation.

February's trade deficit was much smaller than expected at $35.4 billion. Weekly jobless claims came in slightly lower at 268,000.

The trade figures for February were expected to reveal a marginal narrowing of the deficit, as the fall in oil prices compresses the value of imports.

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The U.S. 10-year Treasury yield rose after the reports to as high as 1.88 percent.

While focus remains on Friday's jobs report, investors will eye two other data points on Thursday.

Factory orders for February are due at 10:00 a.m. ET and are likely to register their second consecutive decline. Natural gas inventories come later in the day;.

U.S. factory worker
Thomas Barwick | Stone | Getty Images
U.S. factory worker

The Challenger job cut report showed U.S. employers announced 36,594 layoffs last month, down 27.6 percent from February, but up 6.4 percent from March 2014.

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Friday's labor market report is expected to show an increase in nonfarm payrolls of around 250,000 in March, to leave the unemployment rate unchanged at a more-than six-and-a-half-year low of 5.5 percent.

Thursday marks the last full trading day of the week, as stock markets are shut for Good Friday and bond markets close early, but futures are trading in the morning session and non-farm payrolls will still be published.

European markets were slightly higher in morning trade on Thursday as investors also looked to nonfarm payrolls and positioned themselves ahead of the long weekend.

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Oil futures slipped on Thursday, retreating from gains seen in the previous session, as the nuclear talks with Iran and and six world powers were extended. There are hopes that a last-minute deal over Iran's nuclear program could be reached, meaning more Iranian crude may trade on world markets.

Brent crude traded close to $55 a barrel, while U.S. crude for May delivery was lower at under $50 a barrel.

Lumber Liquidators said March sales were hurt by the "60 Minutes" report on alleged safety problems with its flooring, falling 12.8 percent compared to a year ago. However, it also notes that first quarter sales were up 5.6 percent, which puts them above Street estimates.

Kraft Foods, Mondelez—The CFTC sued the two companies for alleged manipulation of wheat futures and cash wheat prices. Some of the incidents mentioned in the complaint occurred before the 2012 transaction which split Kraft and Mondelez into separate companies. Mondelez said it does not expect any payment resulting from this case to be material to investors, and Kraft tells CNBC that Mondelez will predominantly bear any costs related to the case.

Pfizer will shut down its vaccine sales operation in China after regulators did not renew an import license for its anti-bacterial treatment Prevenar, the only vaccine it sells in that country.

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AIG has been sued by investment firm Pimco, with dozens of Pimco funds saying they suffered sizable losses during the 2008 financial crisis due to AIG's investment in "exotic securities." AIG said it would vigorously defend itself against those charges.

CNBC's Peter Schacknow contributed to this report.