Stock futures were drifting lower Thursday as investors geared up for earnings from Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Citigroup Inc., as well as for weekly jobless claims and consumer-price readings. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and others are also set to appear.
Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 11 points to 16397, while those for the S&P 500 index eased 2 points to 1839.60. Futures for the Nasdaq-100 edged up 2 points to 3600.25.
The week has played out with financial earnings out in front, and Thursday is no exception. First up, BlackRock Inc. (BLK) reported that fourth-quarter earnings per share and adjusted earnings each rose 24%, to $4.86 and $4.92 respectively. Revenue rose 9% to $2.78 billion, and BlackRock declared a quarterly dividend of $1.93.
Goldman Sachs (GS) is expected to report adjusted fourth-quarter earnings per share of $3.99, which would be a 29% drop from a year ago, and revenue of $7.72 billion, which would be a drop of 16%. Goldman had a disappointing fourth quarter.
On its heels, Citigroup (C) is projected to report fourth-quarter earnings of 95 cents a share, according to a consensus survey from FactSet.
Data will also occupy traders' minds. Markets will get the latest reports on weekly jobless claims and consumer prices, with both due at 8:30 a.m. EST. Jobless claims are forecast to match or remain close to last week's level of 330,000, while the consumer-price index is forecast to rise 0.3% in December, and rise 0.2% on a core basis.
Any signs that inflation is "running too hot will add weight to calls for the Fed to push ahead with QE tapering--a move that could end up weighing on equities," cautioned Joao Monteiro, analyst at Monex Capital Markets, in a note.
Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke is scheduled to attend a Brookings Institution event on Thursday. It will also feature San Francisco Fed President John Williams, who will deliver a paper about monetary policy when short-term interest rates are close to zero. Bernanke will sit down at 11 a.m. EST to review his record with Pulitzer-Prize winning author Liaquat Ahamed. Bernanke won't be working off prepared remarks.
Wall Street stocks extended a rebound on Wednesday, with the S&P 500 reaching a fresh record high on a gain of 0.5%, after upbeat manufacturing data and earnings. The Dow industrials gained 108.08 points, or 0.7%, to 16,481.94, and the Nasdaq Composite rose 0.8%, turning positive for the year.
Among other corporates, CSX Corp. (CSX) could see pressure after falling 3% in late trade Wednesday. Raising a potential headwind for Wall Street later, the international transportation company missed on both the top and bottom lines, said Dan Greenhaus, chief strategist at BTIG, in a note.
Greenhaus said transport stocks have outperformed since the fourth quarter of last year, thanks to companies such as Norfolk Southern Corp. (NSC), Ryder Systems Inc. (R) and FedEx Corp. (FDX), as well as an improved economic backdrop.
J.C. Penney Co. (JCP) could be active after the struggling retailer announced 2,000 jobs will go and 33 stores will shutter.
In overseas markets, Asian stocks finished the day mixed, while Eu