Stock Futures Wobble; World Economy in Focus

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U.S. stock-index futures drifted between gains and losses on Thursday as traders digested gloomy data from Europe and China and awaited important reports on the American economy.

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Today's Markets

As of 8:34 a.m. ET, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures rose 10 points to 12774, S&P 500 futures rose 0.75 point to 1351 and Nasdaq 100 futures dipped 0.5 point to 2617.

With the key Federal Reserve meeting over, market participants are focusing their attention back to the stream of incoming data. Business surveys from major world economies pointed to a loss of momentum.

The HSBC Flash PMI gauge showed the Chinese manufacturing sector contracting for the eight month in a row. Meanwhile, the manufacturing sector in the eurozone continued shrinking for the fifth-straight month, according to a report from Markit.

Also on the European front, Spain sold $2.81 billion of medium-term debt on the day, which exceeded the maximum target of $2.53 billion. However, Madrid saw its borrowing costs spike to levels that analysts say would be difficult to finance in the long run. The country will also get a report on how much it will cost to buttress its struggling banking sector, with a rescue from the European Union already agreed to in principal.

There is a slew of U.S. economy data slated for release on Thursday as well.

New claims for unemployment benefits fell to 387,000 last week from an upwardly revised 389,000 the week prior, the Labor Department reported. Claims were expected to fall to 380,000 from an initially reported 386,000. The four-week moving average, which helps smooth out volatility in the weekly numbers, however, rose to its highest level since December 2011. The jobs market has been struggling, with weekly and monthly reports broadly pointing to modest growth that has failed to make material changes in the nation's unemployment rate.

Later, traders will get the Philadelphia Federal Reserve's reading on manufacturing activity in the mid-Atlantic region. Economists expect the sector to have held steady in June after contracting mildly the month before.

Another report is anticipated to show sales of existing single-family homes slowing to a rate of 4.57 million units in May from 4.62 million the month before. In a statement on Wednesday, the Fed referred to the housing market as "depressed" and said it represents a factor that is slowing down broader economic growth. High supply, weak demand and stubbornly tight lending markets have all played a role, economists say.

Oil futures continued falling after getting pummeled on Wednesday after a report showed U.S. inventories unexpectedly jumping. The benchmark contract traded in New York dipped 76 cents, or 0.75%, to $80.84 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline fell 0.43% to $2.579 a gallon.

In metals, gold sold off by $17.80, or 1.1%, to $1,598 a troy ounce.

Foreign Markets 

The Euro Stoxx 50 rose 0.09% to 2209, the English FTSE 100 dipped 0.41% to 5599 and the German DAX slipped 0.14% to 6383.

In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 rose 0.82% to 8824 and the Chinese Hang Seng dropped 1.3% to 19265.