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Market Hustle: Stock Futures Pare Losses After Drop in Jobless Claims

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- U.S. stock futures were paring losses Thursday as data indicated an improvement in labor market conditions.

Dow Jones Industrial Average futures were down 14 points, or 18.18 points below fair value, to 16,346, S&P 500 futures were down 1.5 points, or 2.53 points below fair value, to 1,863.25, and Nasdaq futures were down 4.2 points, or 5.49 points below fair value, to 3,586.8.

  • U.S. weekly jobless claims fell 32,000 in the week of April 5 to 300,000, lower than the average economist's estimate of 320,000. The last time initial claims were this low was May 12, 2007, when they were at 297,000. The four-week moving average also dropped, down 4,750. A separate government report showed that March import prices rose by a more-than-expected 0.6%.

  • U.S. markets closed higher on Wednesday after Alcoa (AA) unofficially kicked-off the first-quarter season with an earnings beat and the release of the minutes of the latest meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee. Minutes from the Federal Reserve's March policy meeting indicated that members were concerned the market had overreacted to a hawkish-sounding forecast. Some even questioned whether there's been enough stimulus to support the economy. "The minutes add to the view private markets overestimated a hawkish move by the Fed. They'll clearly did not shift in that direction," said Dan Greenhaus, BTIG's chief strategist.

    Must Read: Stocks Close Higher as Fed Minutes Reveal Optimism

  • In corporate headlines, Walmart (WMT - Get Report) announced Thursday that it will begin carrying Wild Oats organic food products priced at least 25% lower than national brand organic products currently available at its stores. Rite Aid (RAD) was surging nearly 8% in premarket trading after posting fourth-quarter earnings that beat expectations by 6 cents at 10 cents a share. BlackBerry (BBRY - Get Report) was advancing 0.75% after CEO John Chen told Reuters that the company would consider exiting its handset business if it remains unprofitable, as the technology company looks to expand its corporate reach with investments, acquisitions and partnerships.

  • Bed Bath & Beyond (BBBY) was slumping more than 5.5% in premarket trading after guiding fiscal first-quarter earnings to a lower-than-expected 92 cents to 96 cents a share. JPMorgan (JPM) and Wells Fargo WFC will report first-quarter earnings before the market opens on Friday.

  • Sam Stovall, S&P Capital IQ's chief equity strategist, noted that the longer-term equity outlook remains bullish to him despite the recent stall in U.S. equity prices. The recent rotations out of small caps and biotech stocks may actually be wringing out the excess speculation in the market without upending the market as a whole, he explained. "While Q1 EPS estimates have stalled along with prices, EPS growth is expected to reaccelerate as the year progresses," said Stovall.

-- By Andrea Tse in New York

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