NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Stock futures pointed to a lower open Thursday despite better-than-expected initial jobless claims as investors feared that climbing oil prices could derail the economic recovery. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were down by 39 points, or 30 points below fair value, at 12,055. Futures for the S&P 500 were lower by 6 points, or 7 points below fair value, at 1,299, and Nasdaq futures were off by 10 points, or 17 points below fair value. Stocks saw a steep selloff for the second consecutive session on Wednesday. Crude oil prices briefly hit $100 a barrel as continued violence in Libya heightened concerns that turmoil would spread to major oil producers in the Middle East. Oil is trading above the $100 mark for the first time since 2008 as violence in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, creates concerns about continued oil production disruptions in the North African country.
Libya has the most oil reserves in Africa and although it is only the world's 15th-largest exporter, investors are concerned that political unrest could spread to major oil producers, such as Iran or Saudi Arabia. Crude oil for April delivery was trading $2.29 higher at $100.39 a barrel. Hong Kong's Hang Seng lost 1.3% and Japan's Nikkei dropped 1.2%. London's FTSE was shedding 0.4% and the DAX in Frankfurt was off by 1.2%. Initial weekly jobless claims shed 22,000 to 391,000 in the week ended Feb. 19, beating expectations that the level would remain unchanged at 410,000, according to Briefing.com.
The Department of Commerce said durable goods orders rose 2.7% in January, meeting expectations, after slipping 0.4% in December. Excluding transportation, orders fell 3.6%, which was much lower than the 0.6% uptick that economists had projected, according to Briefing.com. In December, orders, excluding transportation, rose by 3%. Shares of Priceline.com ( PCLN) were trading 6.4% higher at $453.21 ahead of Thursday's opening bell after the
online travel company reported better-than-expected earnings on stronger bookings late Wednesday.
E-Trade Financial's ( ETFC) stock was off by 5.7% at $15.70 after the
online broker said major shareholder Citadel Investment Group plans to sell nearly 24 million of its common shares in a secondary offering. General Motors ( GM) posted an adjusted profit of 52 cents a share, beating Wall Street's estimates for earnings of 46 cents a share. Sales of $36.9 billion also surpassed revenue targets of $34.1 billion. The stock was up by 0.03% at $34.60. Retailer Sears Holding ( SHLD) named Lou D'Ambrosio as CEO and president and said profit in the fourth quarter topped analysts' estimates even though domestic same-store sales slipped 1.2%. Shares were gaining 2% to $89 in early trading. Shares of Dish Network ( DISH) were down 0.04% at $22.92 after the pay-TV provider reported a fourth-quarter profit of 56 cents a share on sales of $3.21 billion, compared with analysts' estimates for earnings of 54 cents a share on sales of $3.21 billion. At 10 a.m., new-home sales are expected to fall to 310,000 in January, from 329,000 in December, according to Briefing.com.
At the same time, the Federal Housing Finance Agency will issue its housing price index for December. The Energy Information Agency will give its weekly read on energy inventories a day late, at 11 a.m., since U.S. markets were closed on Monday for a holiday. Analysts expect crude oil inventories to increase by 1.4 million barrels in the week ended Feb. 18, according to a Platts survey. Late Wednesday, the American Petroleum Institute said oil supplies gained 163,000 barrels. Elsewhere in commodity markets, the April gold contract was higher by $4.50 to trade at $1,418.50 an ounce. The benchmark 10-year Treasury rose 14/32, diluting the yield to 3.433%. The dollar weakened against a basket of currencies with the dollar index down by 0.3%.
. --Written by Melinda Peer in New York.