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Stock Futures Point to Lower Open

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The major U.S. stock averages were mostly lower Thursday after the latest U.S. labor market data and as investors awaited more information from the European Central Bank meeting.

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were down 7 points, or 2.49 points below fair value, at 13,017. Futures for the S&P 500 were down 0.60 points, or 0.02 points above fair value, at 1407. Futures for the Nasdaq were down 5 points, or 2.39 points below fair value, at 2632.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 rose on Wednesday, rebounding after President Barack Obama spoke to top business leaders and made a YouTube push to pass his budget proposal.

In the afternoon Wednesday, news that a group of Republicans were supporting the bi-partisan call to break the gridlock over the "fiscal cliff" talks boosted sentiment.

A big drop in Apple (AAPL) shares dragged down the Nasdaq on Wednesday.

The European Central Bank on Thursday kept its benchmark rate unchanged at a record low of 0.75%. The meeting was to be followed by a press conference.

President Mario Draghi is likely to state again that the ECB is ready to put its bond purchase plan into action, according to Ben May, an economist at Capital Economics.

At the same time, "he will doubtless also stress that it is up to euro-zone governments to solve the debt crisis and he is unlikely to offer much hope of further imminent policy support for the wider economy," said May.

The Bank of England also left its interest rate the unchanged Thursday at a record low of 0.5% and kept its economic stimulus program at 375 billion pounds.

The FTSE 100 in London was rising 0.33% Thursday, while the DAX in Germany was gaining 0.94%.

The Asian markets finished mixed. Japan's Nikkei average finished up 0.81% and Hong Kong's Hang Seng index closed off by 0.09% as investors began to shift their attention away from China's infrastructure spending plans to the ongoing uncertainties relating to the "fiscal cliff" and eurozone.

The Labor Department said that initial jobless claims for the week ended Dec. 1 fell 25,000 to 370,000, coming in lower than the expected 380,000. The prior week's claims were upwardly revised to 395,000.

"Jobless claims fell 25,000 through last Saturday and by more than expected driving the level of claims back down to 370,000 as the impact of Hurricane Sandy dissipates," said Andrew Wilkinson, chief economic strategist at Miller Tabak.

The four-week claims average rose to 408,000 from 405,750.

Continuing claims for the week ended Nov. 24 fell by 100,000 to 3.21 million; economists were expecting 3.275 million.

Meanwhile, the Challenger job cut report registered a 34.4% rise in job cuts in November, after being up 11.6% the prior month.

The jobs data arrives ahead of Friday's big November nonfarm payrolls report, which Julia Coronado, chief economist at BNP Paribas' global market economics, expects to show another reversal in trends with an extremely subdued ... gain after a more resilient string of readings averaging 170,000 over the past three months.

"This is entirely attributable to disruptions associated with Hurricane Sandy," said Coronado.

Gold for February delivery was rising $1.60 at $1,695.40 an ounce at the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange, while January crude oil contracts were up 23 cents at $88.21 a barrel.

The benchmark 10-year Treasury was unchanged, with the yield at 1.591%. The dollar was down 0.01%, according to the U.S. dollar index .

In corporate news, Broadcom (BRCM) lifted its outlook for fourth-quarter revenue on Wednesday to $2 billion to $2.1 billion, from its previous range of $1.95 billion to $2.1 billion.

The chipmaker cited better-than-expected results in its wireless division.

Shares were up 0.72%.

Smithfield Foods (SFD), the meat producer, posted fiscal second quarter adjusted earnings of 61 cents a share on revenue of $3.23 billion, compared with the average analyst estimate of 44 cents a share on revenue of $3.3 billion.

Sales fell short as higher volumes in all segments were more than offset by lower meat and live hog prices.

Shares were down 0.66%.

Lululemon Athletica (LULU - Get Report), the athletic apparel maker, predicted a big slowdown in same-store sales growth, estimating a high single-digits increase in the current quarter, compared with growth of 26% the same quarter last year.

The company posted Thursday third-quarter profit of 39 cents a share on revenue of $316.5 million versus the consensus forecast of profit of 37 cents a share on revenue of $305.1 million.

Shares were sliding more than 1.5%.

Shares of Apple (AAPL) declined 6.4% to $538.79 on Wednesday on reports of a margin hike at one clearing firm and concerns over component supplies falling next year. It was Apple's biggest single-day loss in four years. Shares were sliding over 3% in premarket trading.

Apple shares are also nearing a "death cross," when a stock's 50-day moving average cuts below the 200-day moving average.

Walter Energy (WLT - Get Report) shares were tacking on more than 7% after reports said that BHP Billiton (BHP) is considering an all-cash bid for the U.S. coal producer.

-- Written by Andrea Tse in New York.

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Andrea Tse.

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