Stock Futures Slip; Budget Talks, Data Eyed


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U.S. stock-index futures fell slightly Thursday as traders mulled mixed economic data and continued paying close attention to budget negotiations in Washington.

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Today's Markets

As of 8:40 a.m ET, Dow Jones Indsutrial Average futures fell 18 points to 13202, S&P 500 futures were down 1.5 points to 1431 and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 0.5 point to 2693.

It has been a manic week on Wall Street. The markets posted a big rally Monday and Tuesday amid optimism talks to avoid the fiscal cliff were heading in a positive direction, and then slid the following day as it became clear serious issues remained.

Market participants were expected to continue watching Washington, D.C. with the Republican-controlled House of Representatives expected vote on two budget-related bills Thursday evening. Both are backup plans aimed at dulling the impact of the fiscal cliff should a broader bargain not be forged. If either are passed, they are expected to face stiff resistance in the Democratic-controlled Senate. The White House has also threatened to veto so-called 'Plan B' if it reaches President Barack Obama's desk.

There are also a slew of economic reports on tap. A final reading on U.S. gross domestic product from the Commerce Department showed the economy expanded at an annualized rate of 3.1% in the third quarter, up from a previous reading of 2.7%, and higher than the 2.8% economists were expecting. While the report serves as one of the most important economic indicators, economists say the result of U.S. budget talks are likely to have a big impact on the economy's forward trajectory.

The Labor Department said new claims for unemployment benefits rose to 361,000 last week from an upwardly revised 344,000 the week prior. Claims were expected to rise to 357,000 from an initially reported 343,000.

Later, traders will get a look at the housing market. Sales of existing, single-family homes are expected to have climbed to an annual rate of 4.87 million units in November from 4.79 million the month before. Another report from the Philadelphia Federal Reserve may show the manufacturing sector in the U.S. mid-Atlantic region having contracted at a much slower clip in December than November.

In corporate news, IntercontinentalExchange (NYSE:ICE) unveiled plans to buy NYSE Euronext (NYSE:NYX) for $33.12 a share in stock and cash, valuing the exchange operator at roughly $8.2 billion. NYSE closed at $24.05 on Wednesday and was halted in the pre-market.

Commodities markets were fairly flat. The benchmark crude contract rose 6 cents, or 0.07%, to $90.04 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline dipped 0.05% to $2.742 a gallon. In metals, gold climbed $1.60, or 0.1%, to $1,669 a troy ounce.

Foreign Markets

The Euro Stoxx 50 climbed 0.13% to 2658, the English FTSE 100 rose 0.12% to 5968 and the German DAX edged up 0.05% to 7672.

In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei sold off by 1.2% to 10039 and the Chinese Hang Seng ticked up by 0.16% to 22660.