Updated from 7:00 a.m. EDTPremarket futures were hinting at a lower open for U.S. stocks Thursday, as the government weighed a program to help troubled homeowners and traders sized up a large mass of quarterly corporate earnings statements. Futures for the S&P 500 were down 10 points at 893 and were 3.4 points below fair value. Nasdaq futures were down 15 points at 1233 and were 7.2 points short of fair value. On Wednesday, stocks sold off steadily as many companies, citing an impending economic downturn, cautioned investors not to expect much in coming months. As the economic outlook worsened, the government looked ready to aid homeowners. The Bush administration is mulling a $40 billion program to prevent foreclosures, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. Separately, the Journal reported that Goldman Sachs ( GS) is planning on cutting its workforce by 10% as it copes with the credit crunch. Following the close of Wednesday's session, another spate of earnings hit investors. Online retailer Amazon.com ( AMZN) beat estimates, but the company lowered its forecast for the fourth quarter. In the biotech arena, Amgen ( AMGN) announced solid earnings and lifted its forward guidance. Ahead of the new session, fellow biotech firm Celgene ( CELG) announced a 251% increase in profit, beating Wall Street estimates. Pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly ( LLY) swung to a loss on charges related to a government probe into its Zyprexa drug. Among chemicals companies, Dow Chemical ( DOW) said third-quarter earnings rose as sales jumped 13%. Fertilizer concern Potash ( POT) likewise saw earnings surge in its most recent quarter. Electronics maker Sony ( SNE) slashed its fiscal 2009 outlook in half in part because a strengthening yen would hurt currency conversions from overseas sales.
Looking at economic data, the Department of Labor's jobless numbers for the week ended Oct. 18 unexpectedly rose by 15,000 to 478,000. Economists were expecting 468,000 unemployment claims for the week. In commodities, crude oil was losing 51 cents to $66.24 a barrel. Gold was down $27.70 to $707.50 an ounce. Longer-dated U.S. Treasury securities were rising in price. The 10-year was up 14/32 to yield 3.54%, and the 30-year was adding 24/32, yielding 4.01%. The dollar was strengthening vs. the euro and pound but softening against the yen. Overseas, European exchanges such as the FTSE in London and the Dax in Frankfurt were trading lower. In Asian markets, Japan's Nikkei and Hong Kong's Hang Seng closed with losses.