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Stock Futures Shrug at Jobless Claims Report

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Stock futures were pointing to a flat to lower open on Wall Street Thursday, pausing after the Federal Reserve pledged continued stimulus support and business activity appeared to have slowed in Germany, Europe's biggest economy.

The markets' response to a less-than-expected rise in claims for U.S. unemployment benefits was muted.

Futures for the S&P 500 were flat, or 2.91 points below fair value, at 1,549.

Futures for the Nasdaq were down 3.5 points, or 16.46 points below fair value, at 2,781.75.

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were up 14 points, or 11.73 points below fair value, at 14,422.

J.C. Penney (JCP) shares were rising 2.04% to $16.50 in premarket trading after the company said in a filing Wednesday that bondholders on March 18 withdrew a claim of default against the department-store company. Bondholders had filed the notice on Feb. 4 saying that the company was in default because it pledged merchandise as collateral on its bank credit line.

Micron Technology (MU) shares were rising 1.18% to $9.42. The Boise, Idaho-based company is expected by analysts Thursday to post a fiscal second-quarter loss of 19 cents a share on revenue of $1.92 billion after the market close.

The FTSE 100 in London was slipping 0.75% and the DAX in Germany was stumbling 0.85% after financial information services company Markit Economics' early estimate on the German private sector output in March showed the slowest growth so far this year.

The "flash" Germany Composite Output Index slowed to a three-month low of 51 in March from 53.3 in February. The "flash" Germany Manufacturing Output Index contracted to 49.8, a three-month low, from 50.7.

On Thursday, the European Central Bank gave Cyprus an ultimatum or Monday deadline for finding a solution to raising €5.8 billion in funds to meet requirements under a €10 billion European bailout package after the Cypriot parliament rejected the proposal for levies on Cyprus bank accounts.

The Labor Department said that initial jobless claims rose 2,000 in the week ended March 16 to 336,000, from an upwardly-revised 334,000 the prior week. That was less than the 342,000 expected by economists.

Continuing claims for the week ended March 9 increased by 5,000 to 3.053 million from an upwardly revised 3.048 million the previous week. This was roughly in line with the 3.05 million average estimate from economists.

The four-week moving average on first-time claims was 339,750, a decrease of 7,500 from the prior week.

The National Association of Realtors is forecast to say at 10 a.m. that existing home sales rose to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 5 million units in February from a 4.92 million-unit rate in January.

Out at the same time is the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank's Business Outlook Survey for March. The report may show that manufacturing conditions continued to be in contraction but improved to a decline of 2 from a drop of 12.5, which was the worst reading since June 2012.

The Conference Board's Index of Leading Indicators, out at 10 a.m. as well, is expected to increase 0.4% after rising 0.2%.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency reports on the January Housing Price Index which rose 0.6% in December. The report is due at 9 a.m.

The benchmark 10-year Treasury rose 2/32, diluting the yield to 1.954%, as the dollar rose 0.08%, according to the U.S. dollar index.

May crude oil futures were falling 53 cents to $92.97on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Oracle (ORCL), the business software maker, posted fiscal third-quarter earnings and revenue below analysts' estimates.

Oracle reported earnings on Wednesday of 65 cents a share on revenue of $8.97 billion. New software licenses and cloud-software subscription revenue were down 2% to $2.3 billion. Analysts were looking for earnings of 66 cents a share on sales of $9.38 billion.

Total software revenue rose 4% to $6.67 billion, and hardware-systems revenue declined 16% to $1.24 billion. Services revenue fell 8% to $1.045 billion.

Shares were tumbling 7.68% to $32.02.

Jabil Circuit (JBL), the contract electronics manufacturer, said Wednesday that fiscal second-quarter earnings fell 9% to $88.5 million, or 43 cents a share, from year-earlier profit of $97.7 million, or 46 cents a share. Jabil attributed the earnings decline partly to costs that were higher than expected from its acquisition of Nypro in February.

Adjusted earnings in the quarter were 53 cents a share on revenue of $4.42 billion. Analysts were looking for profit of 54 cents a share on revenue of $4.39 billion.

Shares were sliding 2.21% to $19.05.

Written by Andrea Tse in New York

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

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