Stocks drifted in a narrow range early Thursday as traders sought direction from a key round of holiday chain-store updates.
Index futures recently showed the
trading half a point below fair value, while the Nasdaq 100 was set for a 1-point gain. The 10-year Treasury bond was down 5/32 in price to yield 4.37%, five basis points above the two-year note, while the dollar rose against the yen and euro.
Oil prices were flat ahead of the Energy Department's weekly storage update, which is expected to show that crude inventories fell by 1.2 million barrels last week, according to a
survey. Distillates are expected to rise by 700,000 barrels in the report while gasoline inventories are seen up by 400,000 barrels.
The February crude contract was recently up a penny at $63.43 a barrel. Natural gas futures eased 24 cents to $9.95 a barrel.
Overseas markets were mixed, with London's FTSE 100 recently adding 0.1% to 5720 and Germany's Xetra DAX losing 0.1% to 5518. In Asia, Japan's Nikkei rose 0.4% overnight to 16,425, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 0.5% to 15,271.
Trading Thursday will be influenced by expectations surrounding tomorrow's release of the December employment report. Economists are currently expecting the Labor Department update to show the U.S. added 200,000 nonfarm jobs last month while the unemployment rate held steady at 5%, according to
Takeover talk was swirling around the market Thursday morning, with the
Wall Street Journal
is being eyed by
and private equity giant Blackstone. The target had previously sought a price of $65 a share from
in a deal that ultimately fell apart.
The newspaper also reported that Blackstone, Texas Pacific, Bain and Silver Lake are finalizing an $8 billion buyout of
. An announcement could come Monday.
Among the early retail returns were
, which said December same-store sales rose 7% from a year ago, in line with estimates.
said December comps rose 6%, while
posted a 1% year-over-year decline; estimates had called for an increase.
Satellite radio provider
updated subscriber totals and estimates late Wednesday. Washington-based XM said it currently has 6 million subscribers to its pay-radio service, reflecting 2.7 million net additions in 2005. It expects to end 2006 with more than 9 million subscribers.
said it ended 2005 with 3.32 million subscribers, reflecting additions of 2.17 million in 2005.