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TheStreet Open House

Stock Futures Dip After Tepid Jobs, GDP Data


NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- U.S. stock futures were falling further after initial jobless claims missed expectations amid losses in European markets.

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were down 44 points, or 48 points below fair value, at 13,009. Futures for the S&P 500 were down 5.6 points, or 5.8 points below fair value, at 1395. Futures for the Nasdaq were down 10 points, or 8.4 points below fair value, at 2758.

The Department of Labor reported that weekly jobless claims in the week ended March 24 fell by 5,000 to 359,000 from the prior week's revised level of 364,000. The latest update was slightly disappointing because economists were expecting 350,000 claims, according to Thomson Reuters, after an original reading of 348,000 in the week before.

A report on economic growth, however, came in line with expectations. The government's third read on GDP growth in the fourth quarter of 2011 remained the same as its previous read of a 3% growth pace. This is up from 1.8% annualized growth rate in the third quarter, although still worrisome given that growth is expected to pull back going into the first quarter of 2012.

European stocks were falling after the European Commission said an index of executive and consumer sentiment fell to a reading of 94.4 in March from a revised 94.5 in February.

With Greece's troubles largely falling out of the spotlight, investors have been keeping an eye on deficit problems in Portugal and Spain, were sovereign debt yields have climbed recently. On Friday, European governments meet in Copenhagen where they will aim to increase the rescue firewall in the region. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is expected to allow the increase.

The European Commission also said an index of executive and consumer sentiment fell to a reading of 94.4 in March from a revised 94.5 in February.

Germany's DAX was down 1.3% while London's FTSE was down 0.7%. The Hong Kong Hang Seng closed down 1.32% while the Nikkei Average in Japan finished lower by 0.67% overnight.

On Wednesday, stocks fell along with commodities. Materials and energy stocks dragged down the market amid disappointing domestic and European economic data. A report on durable goods in the U.S. saw a bounce in February, but came in lower than expected.

In corporate news, Best Buy (BBY), the electronics retailer, reported fiscal fourth-quarter profit of $2.47 a share, excluding items, on revenue of $16.73 billion. Analysts were expecting profit of $2.16 a share on revenue of $17.2 billion. Same-store sales dipped 2.4%; Wall Street was expecting a decline of 0.6%. Shares were popping 5.9% to $28.19 in premarket trading Thursday.

Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche increased its unsolicited offer for Illumina (ILMN) to $51 a share, valuing the U.S. diagnostics company at more than $6.5 billion. Roche's previous offer of $44.50 a share was rejected by Illumina's board as being too low. Illumina told its shareholders to "take no action at this time." Shares of Illumina were gaining 2.6% at $51.15 in premarket trading Thursday.

Research In Motion (RIMM), the troubled BlackBerry maker, is expected by analysts to report quarterly earnings of 82 cents a share, which is below the company's own expectation for earnings of 85 cents to 90 cents a share. RIM is working toward the release of its next-generation handset, the BlackBerry 10, in the second half of this year. Shares of RIM have fallen 4% so far in 2012.

Red Hat (RHT), the open source software company, posted earnings in the February-ended quarter that topped analysts' estimates. Red Hat reported a non-GAAP adjusted profit of $57.2 million, or 29 cents a share, on revenue of $297 million, up more than 20% from last year. Analysts were expecting earnings of 27 cents a share on revenue of $291.2 million. The company also unveiled a $300 million buyback program.

Red Lion Hotels ( RLH ) announced plans to explore strategic options. The company said its board has hired Bank of America Merrill Lynchto look at ways to "maximize shareholder value, including a potential sale of the company or a strategic combination with a third party."

May oil futures were down 54 cents to $104.87. In other commodities, April gold futures were down $1.90 to $1656 an ounce.

The dollar index was 0.12% higher. The benchmark 10-year Treasury was up 6/32 diluting the yield to 2.183%.

-- Written by Chao Deng in New York.

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Chao Deng.

>To follow the writer on Twitter, go to: @chao_deng

>To submit a news tip, send an email to: tips@thestreet.com.

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