Stock index futures fell slightly ahead of the open on Wall Street Thursday after news that the economy slowed significantly in the first quarter, and jobless claims rose more than expected.
The nation's gross domestic product grew at an annual rate of 1.8 percentin the first quarter compared with a 3.1 percent gain in the fourth quarter last year, according to the first reading by the govenrment.
The slowdown is viewed as a temporary result of high gas prices, which are expected to stabilize, according to economists, including Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, Reuters reported.
Initial jobless claims for the week ended April 23 rose by 25,00 to 429,000, the highest level since January, the Labor Department said. The prior week's claims were revised upward to 404,000 from 403,000. Economists surveyed by Reuters had expected claims would fall to 392,000.
Investors also continued to digest remarks made by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, who addressed the press after the central bank’s rate-setting meeting on Wednesday, sending the markets higher in late afternoon trading.
The first step in raising rates could occur when the Fed stops reinvesting the proceeds of its bond holdings, Bernanke said, saying the Fed's policy making committee would make that decision "based on our view of how sustainable the recovery is."