Futures Slip Despite Fall in Jobless Claims

Stock index futures fell slightly after news that jobless claims fell last week and remain below 400,000.

Initial claims for unemployment fell to a seasonally-adjusted 388,000 for the week ended March 26, from a revised 394,000 the week before, the Labor Department reported. Claims last week were previously reported at 382,000.

Investors remain focused unrest in the Middle East and Japan’s nuclear crisis, but appear to remain confident in the global economic recovery as stocks keep rising. The market is poised to post the best quarterly results since 1998.

Rebels were still fighting for control of the east Libyan town of Brega on Thursday amid ongoing discussion as to whether Western forces should arm rebels in Libya, Reuters reported.

The situation also remained tense in Bahrain, but the military there has made it clear it will not tolerate any more public demonstrations. Meanwhile in Syria, President Bashar al-Assad refused to meet protesters’ demands.

Oil prices rose strongly on Thursday. U.S. light sweet crude rose above $105 a barrel and London Brent crude rose above $116.

Elsewhere in economic news, the Chicago purchasing managers index is released at 9:45 am and is seen falling to 69.5 in March from 71.2 in February.

February factory orders will be released at 10:00 a.m. and are forecast to rise 0.4 percent according to economists polled by Briefing.com.

In other news, Warren Buffett on Wednesday unexpectedly announced the resignation of David Sokol, the executive who had widely been expected to succeed Buffett as the company’s CEO. The investment firm's less expensive "B" shares were down more than 2 percent in off-hours trade Thursday. They closed at $85.46 on Wednesday.

In Europe, a first euro zone March inflation estimate released Thursday morning put inflation at 2.6 percent, the highest since October 2008. The figure will support the European Central Bank’s case for an interest rate hike this month and leave investors in other parts of the world wondering when other central banks will follow suit.

Richmond Federal Reserve President Jeffrey Lacker speaks at the Richmond Fed's fourth annual credit markets symposium at 10:30 am. The Federal Reserve’s Daniel Tarullo speaks at the same event in Charlotte at noon.

European stockswere lower in early trading, with banks among the weakest performers ahead of the publication of new Irish bank stress tests. Asian markets were mostly higher on the last day of the quarter.

Coming Up This Week:

THURSDAY: Chicago PMI, factory orders, money supply; Lacker speaks, Tarullo speaks.
FRIDAY: Auto sales, nonfarm payroll report, ISM manufacturing index, construction spending; Plosser speaks.

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