Stock Futures Point to Lower Open

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Stock futures were pulling back Thursday as investors digested the first round of a big batch of economic releases while keeping a very close eye on developments in the U.S. 'fiscal cliff' talks.

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were down 18 points, or 24.03 points above fair value, at 13,201. Futures for the S&P 500 were down 2 points, or 1.69 points above fair value, at 1431. Futures for the Nasdaq were down 0.50 points, or 7.01 points above fair value, at 2692.

"While negotiations on the fiscal cliff have stalled over the last couple of days, the likelihood of going past year-end without any resolution of the fiscal cliff has not increased, in our view," according to Goldman Sachs economists. "This is due in part to progress made to date in negotiations between President Obama and Speaker Boehner. However, it is also because it has become increasingly possible that if those negotiations fail, a fallback plan could be passed to avert at least some of the fiscal restraint scheduled for 2013, with remaining issues potentially revisited in early 2013."

Major U.S. stock averages fell Wednesday for the first time this week as politicians wrangled over the "fiscal cliff" deal in Washington.

The Labor Department reported Thursday that initial jobless claims for the week ended Dec. 15 rose 17,000 to 361,000 from the previous week's upwardly revised figure of 344,000. Economists, on average, expected initial claims to rise to 357,000.

The four-week moving average was 367,750, a decrease of 13,750 from the previous week's unrevised average of 381,500.

Continuing claims for the week ended Dec. 8 increased by 12,000 to 3.225 million from the preceding week's upwardly revised level of 3.213 million. Economists were expecting continuing claims of 3.199 million.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis' third read on third-quarter U.S. gross domestic product was 3.1%, up from the prior estimate of 2.7%. Economists were expecting a read of 2.8%.

At 10 a.m., the National Association of Realtors is forecast to say that existing-homes sales rose to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.87 million in November from a pace of 4.79 million in October.

The Philadelphia Federal Reserve's business outlook survey, out at 10 a.m. as well, is expected to show an improvement to minus 3 for December from minus 10.7 in November.

Simultaneously, the Conference Board's Leading Economic Indicators Index is predicted to have declined to minus 0.2% in November after increasing 0.2% in October.

Also out at 10 a.m. is the Federal Housing Finance Agency's housing price index for October.

The FTSE 100 in London was up 0.06% and the DAX in Germany was lower by 0.03% after major European indices soared to fresh 2012 highs the prior session.

The Asian markets finished mixed as the amount by which the Bank of Japan expanded its asset-buying program fell short of some investors' expectations. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index closed up by 0.16% and Japan's Nikkei average finished off 1.19% Thursday.

Gold for February delivery was up 50 cents at $1,668.20 an ounce at the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange, while February crude oil contracts were down 10 cents at $89.88 a barrel.

The benchmark 10-year Treasury was rising 9/32, diluting the yield to 1.775%. The dollar was off 0.06%, according to the U.S. dollar index.

In corporate news, NYSE Euronext ( NYX), the operator of the New York Stock Exchange, announced that it has agreed to be bought by rival IntercontinentalExchange ( ICE) for $33.12 a share in stock and cash, or a total of about $8.2 billion.

IntercontinentalExchange shares were tumbling more than 4% in premarket trading Thursday while NYSE Euronext shares were not yet active.

Bed Bath & Beyond ( BBBY) on Wednesday issued forecasts for the fourth quarter and fiscal year that were below analysts' views.

Shares were shedding 5%.

Jabil Circuit ( JBL) posted fiscal first-quarter earnings on Wednesday that topped Wall Street estimates.

Shares were jumping more than 4.5%.

An experimental therapy from Amicus Therapeutics ( FOLD) and GlaxoSmithKline ( GSK) failed to improve kidney response in Fabry disease patients compared to placebo in a late-stage study, the companies disclosed late Wednesday.

Amicus shares were plunging by more than 43.5%.

ConAgra Foods ( CAG) posted second-quarter earnings of 57 cents a share on revenue of $3.74 billion, beating the average analyst estimate of 55 cents a share on revenue of $3.69 billion, on robust sales from its consumer foods business.

The company hiked its full-year projection to at least $2.06 a share, in line with expectations.

Shares were ahead by more than 3%.

Accenture ( ACN) posted lower-than-expected quarterly sales and current quarter revenue forecasts that fell short of Wall Street targets as customers become more conservative about spending on consulting projects.

Shares were off more than 5%.

Research In Motion ( RIMM), the BlackBerry maker, is expected by analysts on Thursday to post a fiscal third-quarter loss of 35 cents a share.

RIM, which has steadily been losing market share in the U.S., is banking on reversing its fortunes with BlackBerry 10, the new operating system that will be unveiled at the end of next month.

Shares were up 0.44%.

-- Written by Andrea Tse in New York.

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Andrea Tse.

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