Stock Futures Pare Losses on Jobless Data

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Stock-index futures were pressured by ongoing worries about Europe's economy and debt crisis, but a report showing weekly jobless claims at the lowest level since April 2008 helped ease the losses.

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Today's Markets

As of 8:47 a.m. ET, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures fell 38 points to 12967, S&P 500 futures dipped 3.7 points to 1390 and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 0.25 point to 2737.

The Nasdaq took its worst fall since December on Wednesday, while the S&P dropped by the most in almost a month as sentiment across global equity markets turned more bearish. Traders have grown concerned once again about the debt crisis in Spain after the country struggled to meet a target in a recent auction and has seen yields begin climbing once again. Higher yields, analysts say, will make it more difficult for the country to reach its deficit-cutting target.

The labor market is coming into focus with the monthly jobs report on tap for Friday.

New claims for unemployment benefits fell to 357,000 last week -- the lowest level since April 2008 -- from an upwardly-revised 363,000, the Labor Department reported. Claims were expected to fall to 355,000 from an initially reported 359,000.

Planned job cuts among U.S. employers fell 27% in March from February to 37,880, according to a report Thursday by outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. Layoffs are now at the lowest level in 10 months.

The number of jobless claims has consistently sat under the 400,000 level, which many economists say points to continued improvement in the labor market.

Thursday is the last day of equity trading for the week, with stock markets closed for the Good Friday holiday. However, stock-index futures along with precious metal and commodity futures trading will be open for a short time on Friday morning.

Oil rebounded somewhat in New York trading after a steep selloff on Wednesday. The benchmark contract climbed 42 cents, or 0.41%, to $101.89 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline fell a penny, or 0.33%, to $3.323 a gallon.

In metals, gold jumped $9.30, or 0.55%, to $1,623 a troy ounce. The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell 0.045-percentage point to 2.184%.

On the corporate front, many big-name retailers report monthly sales results on the day. Target (NYSE:TGT) boosted its first-quarter earnings outlook after its same-store sales jumped 7.3% in March, bigger than the 5.4% analysts expected. Macy's (NYSE:M) also beat expectations, reporting a 7.3% same-store increase, compared with forecasts of 4.8%.

Foreign Markets

European blue chips fell 1%, the English FTSE 100 dipped 0.43% to 5679 and the German DAX dropped 0.89% to 6724.

In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 slipped 0.53% to 9768 and the Chinese Hang Seng sold off by 0.95% to 20593.

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