Wall Street digests Fed minutes, eyes data

U.S. stock index futures indicated a flat to lower open on Thursday, as investors digested the mostly dovish minutes from the Fed, ahead of more earnings and data releases.

Jobless claims came in at 281,000, slightly above lowered expectations, but an increase from last week.

The U.S.10-year Treasury note yield held unchanged at 1.89 percent, while the 2-year Treasury note yield edged higher to 0.54 percent. The U.S. dollar held gains, with the euro below $1.08.

Peter Boockvar, chief market analyst at The Lindsey Group, pointed out in a note that the four-week average on initial jobless claims fell to the lowest level since 2000.

"Bottom line, near 15-year lows in both initial claims and continuing claims is a clear sign that employers are holding on to their employees to a great extent and another sign of a tightening labor market," he said.

Markets searched for direction on Wednesday after the release of minutes from the Federal Open Market Committee's March meeting, which showed policymakers were divided over the timing of a rate hike.

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"Arguably most striking was the apparent division of Committee members into three broad camps according to their timing preference for the first rate increase. And the "June hikers" will have been subsequently disappointed by the weak US non-farm payrolls data for March," said Daiwa Capital Markets' economist Robert Kuenzel.

"Given the minutes' emphasis on future Fed moves being data-dependent, the minutes also seemed to focus attention on a required stabilization in energy prices and the value of the dollar before the Committee could be confident in inflation turning up," he added.

A trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
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A trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

Wholesale trade data comes at 10:00 a.m. ET.

Costco reported a 2-percent drop in March comparable store sales, a slightly larger decrease than the consensus forecast of a 1.2-percent decline.

On the earnings front, Walgreens Boots Alliance reported adjusted quarterly profit of $1.18 per share, beating estimates of 95 cents. Revenue, however, was below Street forecasts. The company revealed plans to close about 200 U.S. stores, and put other streamlining measures into place that will save $1.5 billion annually by the end of 2017.

Constellation Brands reported adjusted quarterly profit of $1.03 per share, 9 cents above estimates, with revenue essentially in line. The company also initiated a quarterly dividend of 31 cents per share.

PriceSmart and Ruby Tuesday are due to report after the bell.

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European equities were higher in morning trade on Thursday, resuming a recent rally, as investors reacted to fresh economic data.

Oil prices rose in early trading on Thursday, regaining some ground after the 6 percent slump in the previous session following a sharp jump in U.S. crude inventories and record Saudi output.

Brent May crude was up nearly 2 percent near $56.60 a barrel, while U.S. May crude rose 1.5 percent to above $51 a barrel.

CNBC's Peter Schacknow contributed to this report.