NEW YORK – Stock index futures were little changed on Thursday, indicating investors remained cautious about the market ahead of impending data and in the wake of steep declines in the previous session.
Equities slumped more than 2 percent Wednesday as investor focus returned to the looming "fiscal cliff" debate and Europe's economic troubles. It was the first trading session since President Barack Obama won re-election, as generally anticipated.
Wednesday's retreat marked the biggest daily drop for the S&P 500 since June 1; the index dropped 2.4 percent and closed below the key 1,400 level for the first time since August 30. The Dow ended under 13,000 for the first time since August 2.
Some investors may seek bargains at these levels, but sustained upside could be hard to come by until some resolution is reached on the U.S. fiscal cliff. Investors worry that if no deal is agreed over some $600 billion in spending cuts and tax increases due to kick in early next year, it could derail the country's economic recovery.
Domestic growth has been sluggish, with Europe's debt crisis and slowing growth weighing on corporate profits. The latest read on the labor market will come Thursday with the release of weekly jobless claims, due at 8:30 a.m. ET (1330 GMT)
Claims are seen rising by 7,000 in the latest week to 370,000. The September International Trade number is also on tap, with analysts expecting a trade deficit of $45.0 billion, versus a $44.22 billion deficit in August.
S&P 500 futures rose 2.3 point and were about even with 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 added 44 points and Nasdaq 100 futures fell 1.75 point.
Despite Wednesday's sell-off, all three major U.S. stock indexes were still up for the year. As of Wednesday's close, the Dow has appreciated 5.9 percent in 2012 so far, the S&P 500 has gained 10.9 percent and the Nasdaq is up 12.8 percent.
In company news, Qualcomm Inc late Wednesday reported quarterly revenue that beat expectations, sending shares higher in premarket.
Whole Foods Market Inc reported earnings that met expectations but said a recent storm that devastated the U.S. northeast had dragged on sales this quarter.
Walt Disney Co , Dean Foods and Nvidia Corp are all scheduled to report results on Thursday.
(Editing by Bernadette Baum)