By Ryan Vlastelica
NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures were
little changed Thursday as investors awaited weekly jobless
claims, a key datapoint on the labor market that many consider
the biggest hurdle facing the economy.
Weekly jobless claims, to be released at 8:30 a.m. EDT
, will come a day after a weak housing report added
to a growing list of bearish data that renewed fears of a
Economists polled by Reuters expected initial claims to
fall to 490,000 from 500,000 in the prior week, a nine-month
high. Continuing claims are seen edging slightly higher.
"Nobody is going to make a big bet until we get that
number, especially since claims have been a major
disappointment over the past several readings," said Arthur
Hogan, chief market analyst at Jefferies & Co in New York.
Central bankers from around the world will converge later
Thursday at the Jackson Hole, Wyoming, mountain retreat to
assess the darkening economic outlook.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is likely to offer
his views about the uncertain prospects for the economy but
isn't expected to give many clues about whether the Fed will
pump more cash into the economy to keep the recovery going.
Jefferies's Hogan said it was unlikely that Bernanke's
comments would be a negative for equities.
"We're going to find out how divisive the Fed is right now,
and what we can expect in the near term. That's going to help
clarify things," Hogan said.
S&P 500 futures rose 0.6 point and was above fair
value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account
interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the
contract. Dow Jones industrial average futures was up 1
point, and Nasdaq 100 futures added 0.75 point.
U.S. stocks staged a comeback on Wednesday, breaking a
four-day losing streak as key technical support triggered
bargain-hunting. That offset weak data showing July durable
goods orders rose less than anticipated and new home sales
Novell Inc is scheduled to report quarterly
results after the market closes Thursday. The software company
is expected to post a slight decline in quarterly.
Dental equipment maker Patterson Cos Inc is also
on tap to report.
On the technology front, Apple Inc is expected to
show off a snazzier line of iPods on Sept. 1 as speculation
mounts the consumer electronics giant may also unveil a new TV
project. The stock edged 0.3 percent higher to $243.73 in
Amazon.com Inc said Wednesday more of its new
third-generation Kindles were ordered in the first month of
availability than any previous models.
Also on tap for Thursday are the Chicago Federal Reserve
Bank's July Midwest manufacturing report and the Kansas City
Fed's August manufacturing report.
In Europe, shares bounced back from a five-week low as
upbeat corporate results boosted investor sentiment. The
pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 was up 0.6 percent. The
Nikkei index closed up 0.7 percent.
(Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)