Stock Futures Down as Jobless Claims Disappoint

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- U.S. stock futures were lower early Thursday following data showing initial jobless claims remained elevated last week.

Sentiment also took a hit after decline in eurozone business confidence and a weaker than expected earnings report from oil major Exxon ( XOM).

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were down by 36 points, or 31.7 points below fair value, at 13,004. Futures for the S&P 500 were losing 5.1 points, or 4.4 points below fair value, at 1382, and futures for the Nasdaq were off by 8.5 points, or 9.2 points below fair value, at 2696.

Stocks finished higher Wednesday with the Nasdaq outperforming the broad market, soaring 2.3%, because of a massive post-earnings rally in Apple ( AAPL). The results of the Federal Reserve's latest policy meeting caused some fluctuation in the major U.S. equity indices but there wasn't a dramatic reaction to the news that the central bank was leaving its interest rate target intact.

Chairman Ben Bernanke once again left the door for more quantitative easing ever so slightly ajar during his press conference.

Before the open, the Labor Department reported that initial claims for the week ending Apr. 21 fell by 1,000 to a seasonally adjusted 388,000 from the previous week's upwardly-revised figure of 389,000. The consensus was looking for initial claims to decline to 375,000 last week from the originally-reported 386,000 the prior week.

The four-week moving average now stands at 381,750, an increase of 6,250 from the previous week's upwardly-revised average of 375,500. Continuing claims rose 3,000 to 3.315 million in the week ended April 14.

"The pace of jobless claims remained very elevated, with the number of jobless filings declining only marginally," says Millan Mulraine, senior U.S. strategist, TD Securities.

Thursday also brings the National Association of Realtors' report on pending home sales for March at 10 a.m. The number of Americans signing contracts to buy previously owned homes likely increased 1% in March after dipping 0.5% in February.

In Europe, London's FTSE was trading sideways and Germany's DAX was down 0.5%. Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.8% and Japan's Nikkei Average finished flat.

Confidence in the eurozone weakened in every aspect in April, with a European Commission survey showing that economic confidence there dropped to 92.8 in April, the lowest level in more than year, from 94.5 in March. Weakness was registered in every area from consumers to industry, sparking worries that the eurozone will struggle to return to growth this year.

In corporate news, Exxon shares were falling 1.2% after the oil giant reported first-quarter profit of $9.5 billion, or $2 a share, down from $10.65 billion, or $2.14 a share last year, falling short of the Wall Street consensus target of $2.09.

PepsiCo ( PEP) reported first-quarter earnings that beat analysts' expectations. The beverage and snacks maker earned $1.13 billion, or 71 cents a share, down slightly from year-earlier earnings of $1.14 billion, or 71 cents, while core earnings were 69 cents a share; analysts were expecting 67 cents. Shares were up 0.3% ahead of the open.

UPS ( UPS) were sliding 2.3% after the largest overnight package shipper said net income was $970 million, or $1 a share. Analysts had estimated $1.01. Revenue rose 4% to $13.1 billion. Analysts had estimated $13.3 billion.

In commodity markets, the June crude oil contract was down by 13 cents to trade at $103.99 a barrel. The June gold contract was up by $5.30 to $1,647.60 an ounce.

The benchmark 10-year Treasury was last gaining 8/32, diluting the yield to 1.959%. The greenback was trading sideways against a basket of currencies, according to the dollar index.

-- Written by Andrea Tse in New York.

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