Futures indicated a slightly lower open for Wall Street on Thursday, as caution over the state of U.S. recovery tempered anticipation that the global economy would gather momentum in the final three months of 2009.
The market mostly shrugged off news that weekly jobless claims rose more than expected.
The biggest corporate news of the day is the resignation of Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis, who will resign at the end of the year following a tenure marked by controversy over the company's acquisitions of Merrill Lynch and Countrywide Financial.
BofA , which has risen sharply as the credit crisis has passed, gained 1.3 percent in premarket trading.
It's a new month and a new quarter on Wall Street, and although stocks fell for five of the last six sessions, the third quarter ended with some impressive gains, including 15 percent advances for the Dow and S&P 500 and a 15.7 percent gain for the Nasdaq.
With the turning of the calendar page, investors are now focused on the upcoming earnings season and, more immediately, Friday's September employment report.
The centerpiece of Thursday's market action may be Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke's testimony before the House Financial Services Committee.
The text of his prepared testimony has been made public. He will tell lawmakers that regulatory reform should see the Fed share sweeping new oversight powers with other regulators, because the job of managing systemic risk may be too much for just one agency.
Bernanke is scheduled to appear at 9 am New York time.
Some important economic numbers of note will be out: the Labor Department's weekly report on first time claims for jobless benefits comes at 8:30 am New York time. Economists are looking for initial claims of 540,000 compared with last week's reading of 530,000.
Personal income and spending numbers for August will come out at 8:30 am New York time. Consensus forecasts are for an increase of 0.1 percent in personal income, with spending rising by 1.2 percent.
Another burst of data comes at 10 am New York time, with the ISM manufacturing index for September, pending home sales for August, and construction spending for August. ISM is expected to come in at 54, compared to 52.9 a month ago.
Pending home sales are likely to be up 1 percent following a 3.2 percent gain in July, while construction spending is seen rising by 0.2 percent, compared to a July drop of 0.2 percent.
September sales for major U.S. automakers also will be released, starting with Ford at noon New York time, with most automakers already saying we'll see a significant drop in sales from August due to the end of the popular "cash for clunkers" program.
In takeover news this morning, Cisco Systems is buying Norwegian video conferencing equipment maker Tandberg for $3 billion in cash.
Other stocks to watch include Comcast and General Electric , as Comcast denies a report that it has a deal to buy CNBC parent NBC Universal from GE. General Electric had no comment on the story.
— Peter Schacknow, Senior Producer, CNBC Breaking News Desk