Futures Flat Amid China Fears, Lower Claims

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Stock futures pointed to a largely flat open Thursday as the market weighed a larger-than-expected drop in initial jobless claims against fears that China would raise interest rates to cool growth.

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were down by 10 points, or 0.3 of a point below fair value, at 11,776. Futures for the S&P 500 were unchanged, or 0.2 of a point above fair value, at 1279, and Nasdaq futures were ahead by half of a point, or 7 points below fair value.

Initial jobless claims shed 37,000 to 404,000 in the week ended Jan. 15, from 441,000, previously. The drop was larger than the decline of 20,000 claims that analysts had expected.

Global markets weakened on news that China's economy grew 9.8% in 2010's fourth-quarter compared with third-quarter growth of 9.6%, triggering concern that China would enact further monetary policy tightening.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng lost 1.7% and Japan's Nikkei declined 1.1%. London's FTSE was losing 1.4% and the DAX in Frankfurt was down by 0.6%.

Morgan Stanley ( MS) reported adjusted earnings of 43 cents a share, topping the profit of 35 cents a share that Wall Street had forecast. Revenue was also better than expected at $7.8 billion, compared with the $7.4 billion expected by analysts. The stock was gaining 4.1% at $28.88 in early trading.

Southwest Airlines ( LUV) saw its stock rise 2.5% to $13.15 early Thursday after it met analysts' top- and bottom-line estimates with adjusted earnings of 15 cents a share on sales of $3.1 billion.

Shares of eBay ( EBAY) were trading 2.1% higher at $29.70 ahead of Thursday's opening bell after the online marketplace operator topped Wall Street's profit estimates and met sales expectations for the fourth quarter late Wednesday.

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