NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- U.S. stock futures were paring losses after a report from the Commerce Department showed U.S. gross domestic product grew 3.5% in the third quarter, beating economists' estimates.
Third-quarter GDP was forecast to rise just 3%. GDP rose 4.6% in the second quarter. While the initial read on third-quarter GDP was far stronger than expected, it didn't push U.S. stock futures to positive territory.
S&P 500 futures were trading lower by 0.25%, while Nasdaq and Dow Jones Industrial Average futures were falling 0.32% and 0.21%, respectively.
The increase in GDP reflected strong consumption trends, rising exports and government spending at the federal, local and state levels, the Commerce Department said. The data comes as readings on consumer confidence ahead of the holiday season hit a seven-year high, and may reflect strong growth prospects for the U.S. heading into 2015.
The report also showed falling inflation, indicating that even as the U.S. economy grows above trend inflation remains benign. The price index for GDP purchases rose just 1.3% in the third quarter, a drop from the 2% rise recorded in the second quarter. Excluding food and energy prices, inflation rose 1.5% compared with an increase of 1.7%.
Initial jobless claims from Thursday morning showed weekly claims rose slightly more than forecast to 287,000 from 283,000 the previous week. Claims, nonetheless, sit near multi-year lows and come as the U.S. unemployment rate dipped below 6% in September, the lowest level since 2008.
Strong GDP data could impact investors’ thinking on the Federal Reserve’s timetable for a hike in short-term interest rates, however, inflation data remains below the central bank's targets.
The Fed on Wednesday confirmed it was ending its monthly bond-buying program, which caused the central bank's balance sheet to swell to $4.48 trillion, and it provided a slightly stronger-than-expected outlook on the U.S. labor market and economy.
The Fed said it is seeing "solid job gains" and falling underutilization in the labor market, indicating its views on the economy are strengthening. "On balance, a range of labor market indicators suggests that underutilization of labor resources is gradually diminishing," the central bank said.
The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury was rising, hitting 2.31%, while gold was falling more than 1.5% to $1,201 a troy ounce.
”[T]he Fed does appear a bit more confident in the momentum of the underlying economy with improvement in the labor market and household spending,” said Lindsey Piegza, chief economist at Sterne Agee.
Guy Lebas, chief fixed income strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott, said he expects the Fed to begin raising interest rates in September 2015.
Futures opened lower after a report from Germany showed the unemployment rate in Europe's largest economy held steady at 6.7%, unchanged from a record high for overall employment. The German economy added 22,000 jobs in October, defying economists' estimates of job losses.
Apple (AAPL) - Get Apple Inc. Report CEO Tim Cook confirmed he is gay in an editorial published in BusinessWeek. "We pave the sunlit path toward justice together, brick by brick. This is my brick," Cook said.
Royal Dutch Shellundefined said Thursday that third-quarter profit fell 4.5% to $4.46 billion but rose 24% to $5.27 billion when stripping out the impact of fluctuations in the price of oil.
"The recent decline in oil prices is part of the volatility in our industry," said CEO Ben van Beurden in a statement. He said Shell is trying to "get a tighter grip on performance management, keep a tight hold on costs and spending, and improve the balance between growth and returns."
Conoco-Phillips (COP) - Get ConocoPhillips Report also reported better-than-expected third-quarter earnings of $1.29 a share, beating estimates by 8 cents. The oil driller’s earnings were bolstered by asset sales.
Dreamworks Animation (DWA) posted third-quarter adjusted earnings of 10 cents a share, topping analysts' estimates, while revenue of $180.9 million also topped forecasts.
MasterCard (MA) - Get Mastercard Incorporated Class A Report and Visa (V) - Get Visa Inc. Class A Report both reported better-than-forecast third quarter earnings, with shares in the payments giants rising over 1.7% and 4%, respectively.
GoPro (GPRO) - Get GoPro, Inc. Class A Report is expected to report earnings of 8 cents a share after the markets close on Thursday, while LinkedIn (LNKD) is expected to earn 47 cents a share in the third quarter.
-- Written by Antoine Gara in New York