By Barbara Kollmeyer, MarketWatch
MADRID (MarketWatch) -- U.S. stock futures were trading in a tight range on Thursday, but were facing a few hurdles, such as big losses in Asia, a European Central Bank meeting, elections in Britain and economic data.
Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were up 6 points to 10,840, while those for the Nasdaq 100 fell 0.5 points to 1,958. Futures for the S&P 500 rose 1.5 points to 1,163.90
Deadly riots in Greece and a downgrade for Portugal triggered a heavy case of rattled nerves on U.S. markets Wednesday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 59.94 points, or 0.55%, to 10,866.83, its lowest close since March 31. The Nasdaq Composite and S&P 500 also lost ground.
Analysts at UBS pointed out that chaos can offer a good landscape for value. They suggest buying European companies that have over 40% of sales outside of Europe, and are cheaper than global peers. "Sell U.S. companies that sell to Europe and are more expensive than peers," the analysts said.TODAY'S INTERNATIONAL MARKET STORIES
Global Dowâ¢ MarketWatch Topics: Greece â¢ Asia Markets | Europe Markets | LatAm Markets â¢ Canadian Markets | Israel Stocks | London â¢ U.S.: Market Snapshot | After Hours
Economic data on the calendar includes weekly jobless claims and first-quarter productivity data due at 8:30 a.m. ET. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is due to speak about supervisory assessment, as other Fed members are due to deliver speeches on the economy.
Just a handful of companies are due to report before the bell -- MGM Mirage /quotes/comstock/13*!mgm/quotes/nls/mgm (MGM 14.94, -0.54, -3.49%) , PNW Pinnacle West /quotes/comstock/13*!pnw/quotes/nls/pnw (PNW 37.24, -0.07, -0.19%) and PPL Corp. /quotes/comstock/13*!ppl/quotes/nls/ppl (PPL 24.69, +0.02, +0.08%) .
Retailers also will be report same-store sales figures for April. April sales at stores open at least a year are expected to be flat to down slightly after they rose a better-than-expected 9% in March, the industry's best monthly performance in more than a decade, according to trade group International Council of Shopping Centers. See full story.
Alcatel Lucent /quotes/comstock/13*!alu/quotes/nls/alu (ALU 3.02, +0.01, +0.33%) may see pressure after the telecom equipment maker reported a wider loss and lower-than-expected revenue. See full story.
But the real focus remains on the turmoil in Europe.
Europe stocks were steady with battered banks crawling back after a week of selling, but the euro sank to a new 14-month low against the U.S. dollar, on continuing fears that sovereign-debt woes will spread. The euro fell 0.4% to $1.2770. See Europe stocks
The European Central Bank will attract plenty of attention with its meeting in Lisbon, Portugal, with a decision on interest rates due at 7:45 a.m. Eastern and a press conference with ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet
Financial markets are pressing officials to take further steps to contain the growing sovereign debt crisis quickly, as the rescue package for Greece has failed to calm the market turmoil. And some have suggested the ECB step in and buy government bonds itself.
"Whether it does or not, it is becoming clearer by the moment that conventional monetary policy will need to remain extremely loose for a very long time," said Jennifer McKeown, senior European economist at Capital Economics.
"In all, we suspect that the ECB will keep its options open if questioned about government bond purchases later today. And we would not rule out such a move in future - any port in a storm, after all."
U.K. stocks were edging higher on the day of a heavily uncertain general election. There is a strong possibility that the country will see its first hung parliament since 1974 and investors are worried that the country's budget deficit will remain wide. See London stocks
Most Asian stocks and currencies suffered heavy losses on worries about Europe and fears that tightening policies could slow China growth. Japan's Nikkei 225 finished down 3.3% on reopening after a three-day holiday, while China's Shanghai Composite tumbled 4.1% to its lowest finish in more than eight months.
Crude oil was down 29 cents to $79.67 a barrel, while gold rose $3 to $1,178.10 ounce.
Barbara Kollmeyer is an editor for MarketWatch in Madrid.