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Wall Street eyes more financials, housing data

U.S. stock index futures indicated a lower open on Thursday, as financial earnings continue to dominate news flow and economic data continued to indicate tepid growth.

U.S. March housing starts showed a 0.926 million unit rate, below expectations but above February's 0.908 million unit rate.

The usual weekly initial jobless claims came in at 294,000, above expectations and a slight increase from the prior week.

The Philadelphia Fed's business outlook index for April is due at at 10 a.m.

Major financial earnings on Thursday include BlackRock, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and Blackstone, along with Philip Morris, Mattel and UnitedHealth before market open. American Express is due after the bell.

Citigroup posted earnings per share that beat on revenues that missed expectations.

Goldman Sachs handily beat expectations on both earnings per share and revenue, helped by a burst of trading activity in January when the Swiss central bank removed a cap on the franc. The investment bank also raised its quarterly dividend to 65 cents per share from 60 cents.

BlackRock reported a 8.7 percent rise in first quarter profit, boosted by strong flows into its exchange-traded funds (ETFs). The asset manager saw net income rise to $822 million in the first quarter, up from $756 million a year earlier.

UnitedHealth earned $1.46 per share for its latest quarter, 11 cents above estimates, with revenue also beating Street expectations. The insurer also raised its 2015 earnings forecast, following stronger business growth during the first quarter.

Blackstone economic net income of $1.37 per unit, well above estimates of $1.04, with revenue also scoring a solid beat. The private equity and investment firm was helped by strong results from asset sales.

Positive fallout from Netflix's after-the-bell report could spill over into momentum names Thursday. Netflix missed on the earnings per share but its stock surged as revenues grew 24 percent and it added more subscribers than expected.

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Etsy will make its Wall Street debut today, with the crafts marketplace pricing its initial public offering at $16 per share, at the high end of the expected range.

Traders work at the Goldman Sachs Group booth on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
Peter Foley | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Traders work at the Goldman Sachs Group booth on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

Oil will also be in focus on Thursday, with Brent crude oil rising more than 3 percent to a 2015 high above $63 per barrel on increasing evidence that U.S. production is peaking, before slumping back to trade around $62 a barrel following an OPEC report.

Meanwhile in Europe, equities fell in early trading on Thursday after mixed first-quarter earnings reports and concerns that Greece's economic outlook has deteriorated further. Standard & Poor's cut the country's credit rating to "CCC+" from "B-" with a negative outlook on Wednesday.

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European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi was questioned about Greece at his regular press conference on Wednesday, after the central bank opted to keep interest rates unchanged. Draghi said he was unready to "contemplate" a default by Greece and dismissed fears of a bubble in bond markets.

CNBC's Peter Schacknow contributed to this report.