Futures Pare Losses on Improved Job Report

Stock index futures were lower ahead of the opening bell Thursday, though losses eased after the government reported a larger-than-expected drop in weekly jobless claims.

The Labor Department said jobless claims dropped 19,000 in the past weekto 457,000, against expectations of drop of 7,000.

New orders for long-lasting manufactured goods fell for the first time in six months in May but the drop was less than expected.

Durable goods orders fell 1.1 percent, the sharpest drop since August 2009, the Commerce Department said. Analysts were expecting a 1.4 percent decline after a 3 percent gain in April.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average managed to close fractionally higher Wednesday in the wake or the Fed's pledge to keep its core interest rate on hold for a prolonged period. But the central bank’s muted expectations for growth and disappointing data from the housing sector weighed on the overall market with the S&P 500 and Nasdaq closing lower.

The Fed statement "confirms that the U.S. policy makers are worried about what's happening in Europe," Marco Annunziata, global head of economics, fixed income & FX research at Unicredit, told CNBC.

"They're worried about the European financial crisis and its impact on financial markets, but they're also very worried about the rush to fiscal austerity in several European countries," Annunziata said.

Housing continued to weigh on the market, after builder Lennar reported a quarterly profit as the homebuyer tax credit wound down, but new orders slowed and cancellations rose. Shares fell 1.6 percent in premarket trading.

European stocks were lower with mining shares giving up early gains. The miners had initially been higher on hopes Australia's new Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, would soften plans to tax the sector. Asian markets closed mostly lower.

On the economic front, jobless claims for the week ended June 19 will be release at 8:30 am New York time with analysts expecting a decline in first-time claims for unemployment benefit to around 460,000.

Also at 8:30 am, May's durable goods data will be out, with analysts expecting a decline of 1.4 percent in the total value of orders for durable goods placed with manufacturers for the month.

Elsewhere in earnings, ConAgra reported profit of 20 cents a sharethat missed analyst expectations, while McCormick also is scheduled to report. shares fell 1.4 percent in light premarket trading.

Oracle and Research In Motion are due to report after the closing bell.


The Gulf of Mexico oil spill continued, with BP reverting to an earlier tactic of collecting oil from the ruptured well. As well as the environmental damage, the spill is also taking its toll of President Obama's approval rating, which fell to 45 percent, according to a recent poll.

London traded shares of BP were slightly lower, New York traded shares of BP rose 1.7 percent in premarket trading.

Treasurys prices benefited from the weakness in futures, with the yield on the benchmark 10-year note dropping to 3.09 percent, its lowest since April 27, 2009, when it last traded under 3 percent. Treasurys lost some of their gains after the jobs report.

Oil prices fell to near $75 a barrel, while gold fell nearly 1 percent. Currency trading sawthe US dollar gaining against a basket of foreign currencies and the euro falling slightlyagainst the greenback.