Futures Flat as Traders Eye Data, Earnings


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U.S. stock-index futures held steady on Thursday as traders mulled several high-profile earnings reports and data on the American labor market.

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Today's Markets

As of 8:38 a.m. ET, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures climbed 1 point to 15441, S&P 500 futures gained 1.5 points to 1678 and Nasdaq 100 futures fell 3 points to 3076.

It was a busy morning for Wall Street, with several high-profile firms report second-quarter earnings. Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS), the investment-banking heavyweight, posted profits and revenues that topped Wall Street's expectations. Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ) weighed in with a beat on the bottom line pared with top-line results that matched analysts' expectations. UnitedHealth (NYSE:UNH), the blue-chip health insurer, also posted better-than-expected profits, but sales came in shy of estimates.

On the economic front, the Labor Department said claims for first-time jobless benefits fell to 334,000 from a downwardly revised 358,000. Economists expected claims to fall to 345,000 from an initially reported 360,000.. A separate report from the Philadelphia Federal Reserve is forecast to show the manufacturing sector in the mid-Atlantic region having expanded at a considerably slower pace in July than the month before.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke will be addressing Congress for the second time in so many days as part of his semi-annual monetary policy address. Bernanke's comments that the Fed has no "preset course" for slowing down its bond purchases helped boost stocks on Wednesday.

In commodities, oil prices fell 7 cents, or 0.07%, to $106.41 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline dipped 0.84% to $3.084 a gallon. Gold climbed $3.40, or 0.27%, to $1,282 a troy ounce.

Foreign Markets

The Euro Stoxx 50 rose 0.09% to 2684, the English FTSE 100 gained 0.36% to 6595 and the German DAX fell 0.06% to 8250.

In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 rallied 1.3% to 14809 and the Chinese Hang Seng tilted lower by 0.12% to 21345.

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