The economic calendar in the U.S. Thursday includes weekly jobless claims at 8:30 a.m. EST, the consumer price index for October at 8:30 a.m., and the Empire State manufacturing survey for November at 8:30 a.m.
U.S. stocks on Wednesday were dragged lower by persistent worries over the fiscal cliff. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down more than 185 points, or 1.45%, at 12,571. The blue-chip index, which has fallen in five of the past six sessions, is up just 2.89% year to date. The S&P 500 finished off more than 19 points, or 1.39%, at 1355, while the Nasdaq lost a little more than 37 points, or 1.29%, to settle at 2847.
BP (BP - Get Report) said Thursday it is in advanced talks with the U.S. Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission about settling criminal and other claims from the Deepwater Horizon explosion in 2010. A source told Reuters that BP's settlement payment would be the largest criminal penalty in U.S. history.
Wal-Mart Stores (WMT - Get Report), the world's largest retailer, is expected by analysts to report before Thursday's opening bell quarterly earnings of $1.07 a share on revenue of $115 billion. Rival Target (TGT - Get Report) also reports third-quarter results on Thursday, and analysts polled by Thomson Reuters forecast a profit of 77 cents a share in the October-ended period on revenue of $16.92 billion.