U.S. stock index futures pared some losses Thursday following a handful of better-than-expected economic news, but gains were limited as investors continued to focus on developments in Greece.
On the economic front, weekly jobless claims posted a surprising drop of 13,000 to a seasonally adjusted 348,000, according to the Labor Department, falling to its lowest level in almost four years. Economists had forecast claims rising to 365,000, according to a Reuters poll.
Housing starts gained more than expected, climbing to 1.5 percent to an annual rate of 699,000 units in January, according to the Commerce Department.
And the producer price index posted its largest gain in six months, rising 0.4 percent in January, after increasing 0.3 percent in December. Economist polled by Reuters had expected PPI to edge up only 0.2 percent.
European stocks were lower, while the euro hit a three-week low on worries about a possible delay of a second bailout for Greece.
Banks were under pressure after Moody's warning that it may cut the ratings of 17 global and 114 European financial institutions because of more fragile funding conditions and increased regulatory burdens.
Among banks in the U.S., Moody's said it was reviewing the long-term ratings and standalone credit assessments of Bank of America , Citigroup , Goldman Sachs , JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley .
Among earnings, General Motors posted its highest profit ever last year , though the automaker reported its quarterly results fell short of expectations.
Baidu , Applied Materials and Nordstrom are among companies scheduled to post earnings after-the-bell tonight.
Apple released a new version of its Macintosh operating system that incorporates various features from the software that powers the iPad maker's mobile devices. Apple shares closed below the $500/share mark in the previous session.
Google could be in focus as the Chinese commerce ministry said it was reviewing Google's $12.5 billion deal to buy Motorola Mobility, as part of routine anti-monopoly checks.
Meanwhile, foreclosure rates gained again with one in every 624 U.S. households receiving a foreclosure filing in January, up 3 percent from the previous month, according to RealtyTrac.
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Coming Up This Week:
THURSDAY: Philadelphia Fed survey; earnings from Applied Materials, Baidu, Nordstrom
FRIDAY: CPI, leading indicators; Earnings from Campbell Soup, Heinz
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