US futures fall as US companies post earnings

NEW YORK -- Stock futures slipped Thursday as companies including Verizon, Morgan Stanley and Southwest Airlines posted mixed quarterly earnings, and the Labor Department posted the latest numbers on unemployment benefits.

Dow Jones industrial futures fell 9 points to 13,480. The broader S&P futures gave up 4.2 points to hit 1,4590. Nasdaq futures fell 10 points to 2,760.50.

The Labor Department reported that applications for U.S. unemployment benefits jumped 46,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 388,000, the highest in four months. That's way up from last week, however, big shifts for both weeks were heavily influenced by technical factors.

The four-week average of applications, a less volatile measure, rose slightly to 365,500, suggesting that modest hiring is ongoing.

Also Thursday, China reported that growth fell to 7.4 percent from 7.6 percent a year ago, the weakest showing since early 2009.

The health of the world's second-largest economy has a big impact on exporting nations, from natural resources in South America, to big machinery makers in the U.S. Slowing growth in China hit Deere shares hard when it cut its revenue estimates two months ago. Shares of Caterpillar edged lower in premarket trading.

However, economists were divided on how to interpret the latest figures. China's worst slump since the global financial crisis, some believe, may at least be leveling out.

Retail sales in China rose 14.4 percent, accelerating from the first half's 14.1 percent growth. Investment in factories and other fixed assets improved, rising 20.5 percent in the first nine months of the year, up from a 20.2 percent rate for the first eight months.

Morgan Stanley rose before the market opened after it beat most expectations for the third quarter. Revenue rose 18 percent to $7.5 billion after excluding one-time charges, topping the $6.4 billion that analysts were expecting.

Shares of Philip Morris headed in the opposite direction as profits fell. Despite higher prices, it's selling fewer cigarettes. Total Marlboro shipments fell 2.3 percent.