Futures Slide After Letdown From Jobs

Stock index futures slipped after the government said weekly jobless claims fell but not as much as analysts had anticipated.

Futures were slightly positive before the Labor Department reported that initial jobless claims fell 6,000 to 462,000 for the week ended March 6. Analysts were expecting a drop of 8,000.

The market is coming off a modest gain from Wednesday's choppy session.

Optimism about Citigroup and other banks' ability to raise capital, coupled with market talk of government banning short-selling in banks in which it owns stakes, contributed to the rise in banking shares Wednesday.

It continues to be a busy season for deals.

BP has entered a $7 billion deal with US independent oil and gas producer Devon Energy. The UK oil major bought into a diverse and broad deepwater exploration portfolio in offshore Brazil.

BP shares edged higher in premarket trading while Devon gained nearly 3 percent.

The foreclosures rate has improved, with the number of Americans getting foreclosure notices falling 2.3 percent month-on-month in February, according to a RealtyTrac report. But the number was up 6 percent compared with February 2010, and experts warned that the bad weather and procedural issues could delay foreclosures and the figure could rise in the coming months.

In international macroeconomic news, fears of an overheating in China are growing after inflation rose to a 16-month high, sparking talk of monetary tightening.

Asian stocks closed mixed after the inflation data, while European stocks were largely in the red in mid-morning trading.

Strikes against austerity measures in Greece all but paralyzed the country, grounding flights, closing schools and disrupting public transport.

In other news, the Treasury's decision to not let GMAC go bankrupt may have raised the costs for a bailout for the taxpayer, according to a new report by the Congressional Oversight Panel.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner wrote to European Commission officials warning them not to regulate hedge funds and private equity companies as this would discriminate against U.S. entities, the Financial Times reported.

And a big fire ripped through London's financial district in the early hours Thursday. There were no reports of injuries and trading on the London Stock Exchange was not affected.