NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Wall Street's confidence eroded post-haste on Wednesday as poor economic data again reared its head and Greece's not-so-sudden instability suddenly became problematic. The resulting deep selling wiped away recent gains, and put stocks back on track for a seventh straight week of declines. June is only half over and the Dow Jones Industrial Average is already down 5.4% month-to-date, cutting the blue-chip index's appreciation in 2011 to just 2.8%. Wednesday's finish broke a two-day winning streak and was the Dow's lowest close since March 18. The Nasdaq Composite is already negative for the year, and the S&P 500 index is hanging by a thread, up just 0.62% on a price basis. Beyond whatever unfolds in Greece, Thursday will provide plenty of economic data and earnings reports for investors pore over. Initial jobless claims for the week ended June 11 are due at 8:30 a.m. ET, and the consensus economist estimate is for 421,000, a decline from 427,000 last week, and below the four-week moving average of 424,000. Continuing claims for the week ended June 4 are seen at 3.7 million. At this point, there's no getting around how dim the employment picture has become. Basically, even when the rest of the economic data was improving, it wasn't enough to make a dent in the unemployment rate. Now there's cracks showing up everywhere, so where in the world is job growth supposed to come from? Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics, would like to see initial claims come in "appreciably lower" than expectations to compensate for any revision to the previous week. "We think the underlying trend has leveled off, now that the array of one-time shocks have gone and the apparent panic induced by the rise in oil prices has faded somewhat, but we cannot be certain," he said. "The nasty but persistent habit of revising claims numbers higher means that last week's 427K will likely now be reported above 430K, and claims have not been that high since early May." Also at 8:30 a.m. ET will be May's housing starts number. The consensus view of 540,000 represents a tick up from 523,000 in April. Just meeting this view might give the market some comfort, as it would compensate for the shock of April's ugliness, but either way there's no case to be made for any momentum building here. The Philadelphia Fed survey arrives at 10:00 a.m. ET, and Wall Street is likely just bracing for the next body blow after Wednesday's Empire State Manufacturing survey, which came in negative for the first time since November 2010 in June.
On the corporate front, Kroger ( KR) is slated to report its fiscal first-quarter results before Thursday's opening bell. The average estimate of analysts polled by Thomson Reuters is for a profit of 64 cents a share on revenue of $26.65 billion from the Cincinnati, Ohio-based supermarket operator. Year-to-date, Kroger shares are holding steady with a 4% gain, but based on Wednesday's close at $22.95, the stock has pulled back 9% since hitting a 52-week high of $25.48 on May 20. Wall Street is divided on Kroger ahead of the numbers with 11 of the 20 analysts covering the shares at strong buy (7) or buy (4). BMO Capital previewed the results last week, keeping a market perform rating on the company as it believes the shares have already priced in a plethora of good news. "Despite the likelihood of a 1Q11 consensus beat as well as the broad-based investor enthusiasm for the food retailers due to the return of inflation, we remain cautious on Kroger going into 1Q11 results because we believe the current stock price already reflects: 1) a 1Q beat, 2) I.D.sales solidly above 4%, and 3) raised FY guidance," the firm said. For its part, BMO Capital thinks it's probably too early in the fiscal year for Kroger to boost its guidance for a profit of $1.80 to $1.82 a share, and that the consensus of 43 cents a share for the second quarter is already likely too high. The firm is taking its cue from recent mixed commentary from retailers, saying many have been hard pressed to pass along higher costs to consumers, hurting both top-line growth and margins. "We believe this could be the case even if 1Q is strong; Kroger started to experience these pressures in the early part of 2Q," BMO Capital said. The big after-hours report tomorrow will be Research In Motion ( RIMM), which has seen its stock swoon as Apple ( AAPL) has risen to tablet supremacy. Shares of the Blackberry maker are down nearly 40% vs. a gain of 3% in Apple stock so far in 2011. Going back 52 weeks, Apple shares are up 22% compared to a decline of 43% for Research In Motion. Last quarter, Research In Motion cut its outlook for the full year to earnings of $1.47 to $1.55 a share, less than then-consensus analyst expectations of $1.65 a share. Another disappointment could be disastrous. Other notable earnings reports on Thursday include Smithfield Foods ( SFD), Winnebago Industries ( WGO), Pier 1 Imports ( PIR), and CDC Corp. ( CHINA). And finally, the optical networkers will be active on Thursday, and not in a good way. Finisar ( FNSR) reported mixed results after the bell, and gave a weak outlook, sending the shares plunging in after-hours action, and weighing on other players in the sector such as JDS Uniphase ( JDSU). -- Written by Michael Baron in New York. >To contact the writer of this article, click here: Michael Baron. >To submit a news tip, send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org