Stock index futures indicated a flat open after economic data showed the employment picture is stabilizing.
Traders were slightly optimistic following release of the weekly jobless claims picture, which showed initial claims nudging higher to 608,000 but continuing claims, which more broadly reflects job trends, slipping a bit to 6.69 million.
The good news for stock investors is that the U.S. markets partially put the brakes on a two-day skid during the Wednesday session, returning to the narrow trading range that had marked the previous two-week period.
The bad news: stocks still lost ground, with the Dow now on its worst three-session skid since March 27-31. European stocks trended modestly lower and Asian markets mostly lost ground overnight.
At 10 am, the Conference Board issues the May Index of Leading Economic Indicators, expected to post a rise of 0.9 percent, while the Philadelphia Federal Reserve will be out with its monthly index of business conditions, with the consensus forecast at a -17.0.
Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner takes to Capitol Hill in the morning to answer questions about the regulator overhaul plan officially unveiled by President Obama Wednesday. He'll appear before the Senate Banking Committee at 9:30 am. He'll follow that up with testimony to the House Financial Services Committee at 1:30 pm.
The Energy Department releases its weekly data on natural gas inventories at 10:30 am.
Earnings reports of note today include cruise line operator Carnival and Discover Financial, both out before this morning's open, and Blackberry maker Research In Motion, out after this afternoon's closing bell.
Another stock to watch is movie studio Lions Gate, with investor Carl Icahn upping his stake in the company to 16.9 percent.