NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- U.S. stock futures shed light losses Thursday to turn mildly higher after the government reported consumer prices held unchanged in February, backing the Federal Reserve's view of tame inflation.
Stock futures turned higher after the Labor Department reported a flat reading on its consumer price index last month, with declining energy costs offsetting hikes in the price of cars, medical care and food. See detailed report.
"Inflationary pressures remain quite tame, supporting the FOMC's still benign outlook," analysts at Action Economics said of the Federal Open Markets Committee, which on Tuesday opted to keep its benchmark rate at historic lows, with inflation viewed as less of a threat than any moves that might curb the economic recovery.
Separately, the count of people applying for jobless benefits fell by 5,000 last week. Read more about the employment market.
S&P 500 futures gained half a point to 1,161.50 and Nasdaq 100 futures rose two points to 1,936. Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 19 points to 10,745.TODAY'S INTERNATIONAL MARKET STORIES
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On the New York Mercantile Exchange, crude-oil futures fell slightly but remained above $82 a barrel, while gold futures were down 20 cents at $1,124.00 an ounce.
The low-volume rally continued Wednesday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average rising 47 points for its seventh straight gain and 12th rise in 14 sessions. Gains also were made for the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite.
For some, the rally appears on its last legs.
Citigroup cut its stance on the global financial sector to neutral from overweight.
"Global equities typically grind higher in months 12 to 36 of a market recovery. So buy the dips and don't chase the rallies too hard," they said.
Data due later in the session includes the Philly Fed index for March and February leading indicators, due at 10 a.m. Eastern.
Growing indications Greece may turn to the International Monetary Fund rather than fellow euro-zone nations for support helped drag the euro lower, as well as share prices for lenders including National Bank of Greece /quotes/comstock/13*!nbg/quotes/nls/nbg (NBG 4.01, -0.30, -6.96%) , which will be reporting results after the Athens close. See full story.
Standard & Poor's however upped its outlook on India to stable from negative as it affirmed that country's BBB- rating.
On the corporate news front, Pfizer /quotes/comstock/13*!pfe/quotes/nls/pfe (PFE 17.20, -0.01, -0.06%) lost out to Teva Pharmaceutical /quotes/comstock/15*!teva/quotes/nls/teva (TEVA 61.87, +1.93, +3.22%) in the auction for Ratiopharm, a German generic drug maker. Teva is paying about $5 billion.
Teva shares rose more than 4% in premarket trade. Pfizer edged up 0.8%.
Nike /quotes/comstock/13*!nke/quotes/nls/nke (NKE 74.94, +4.06, +5.73%) rose 4.4% after the sneaker maker more than doubled its third-quarter profit and said orders climbed 9%.
GlaxoSmithKline /quotes/comstock/13*!gsk/quotes/nls/gsk (GSK 38.79, +0.99, +2.62%) advanced in London after Novartis /quotes/comstock/13*!nvs/quotes/nls/nvs (NVS 54.55, -0.27, -0.49%) relinquished U.S. rights to a generic version of Glaxo's Advair.
FedEx /quotes/comstock/13*!fdx/quotes/nls/fdx (FDX 90.37, +0.57, +0.63%) dropped 1.9%. While it hiked its fourth-quarter earnings outlook, it also increased its investment in Boeing 777s and reinstated employee compensation programs that will dampen earnings growth in fiscal fourth quarter and next year. See full story.
The Nikkei 225 dropped 1% in Tokyo, while Europe equities fell marginally.
Steve Goldstein is MarketWatch's London bureau chief. Kate Gibson is a reporter for MarketWatch, based in New York.