Stocks were poised for a positive open amid a rough week, though futures sold off just a bit after the weekly jobless claims report showed that employment remains a sticking point for the economic recovery.
Initial claims for state unemployment insurance benefits fell 4,000 to a seasonally adjusted 570,000 in the week ended Aug. 29 from an upwardly revised 574,000 the prior week, the Labor Department said. The number was roughly in line with estimates, but the market was shaken a bit by the revision and a slight move higher in the moving average, the four-week metric that smoothes out weekly volatility.
Investors also focusing on employment figures and a mixed bag of retail sales numbers.
Costco kicked off retail sales results for August ahead of the open with a smaller-than-expected 2 percent fall in same-store sales. Costco gained 4.6 percent in premarket trading.
Investors also liked the numbers from big-box retailing giant Target , which reported that same-store sales fell a better-than-expected 3 percent, sending shares higher by 3 percent premarket.
Gap shares also gained 4 percent after the company beat sales expectations.
So far, it hasn't been a September to remember on Wall Street. With two days in the books, the month is living up to its historic billing as the worst month of the year for stock investors, though Wednesday's losses were relatively small.
And at 10 am, the Institute for Supply Management will release its monthly non-manufacturing index, a measure of the U.S. services economy. Economists are looking for that number to come in at 48.2, still below the 50 mark that divides contraction and expansion.
Investors may take heart from a new report by JPMorgan, which is raising its GDP growth projection for the current quarter to an annual rate of 4 percent from the prior 3 percent, and is also raising its fourth quarter estimate to 3 percent from the prior 2.5 percent.
Investors will watch shares of drugmaker Sepracor, as Japanese pharmaceutical company DSP announces a deal to buy Sepracor for $23 per share, or $2.6 billion. The stock had run up considerably over the past few sessions as word of talks between the two companies spread.
- Written by Peter Schacknow, Senior Producer, CNBC.com