NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- U.S. stock futures retained slight gains Thursday after a trio of economic reports yielded mixed results on the heels of word of slowing growth in China and as J.P. Morgan Chase's earnings topped expectations.
Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were up 4 points to 10,310, while those for the S&P 500 rose fractionally to 1,091.90. Futures for the Nasdaq 100 rose 1.25 points to 1,852.50.
The Labor Department reported that jobless claims fell by 29,000 to 429,000 last week from an upwardly revised 458,000 the prior week. Continuing claims climbed 247,000 to 4.68 million. Read about weekly claims at their lowest level in nearly two years.
"The outcome was better than expected, though there are seasonal distortions at this time. Also the continuing claims rise is troubling," noted analysts at Action Economics.
Separately, the Labor Department said that wholesale prices fell 0.5% last month in their biggest decline since February. See details of lower food prices pacing the drop.
The New York Federal Reserve Bank's Empire State survey revealed that manufacturing activity grew in the region in July, but at a far weaker pace than the month before.
Shares of J.P. Morgan /quotes/comstock/13*!jpm/quotes/nls/jpm (JPM 39.97, -0.38, -0.94%) rose in premarket trade after the bank said its second-quarter profit jumped 76% to $4.8 billion, or $1.09 a share, from $2.72 billion, or 28 cents a share, in the year-earlier period. Excluding items, the earnings beat analysts' estimates.
"A very strong earnings report from J.P. Morgan -- and it is going to be very interesting to see how the other major institutions within U.S. banking earnings reports are," said Christian Tegllund Blaabjerg, chief equity strategist at Saxo Bank. "If they are at the same level at J.P. Morgan, we could be in for solid rally within financials as these stocks have been suppressed a bit by the unknown factor of future regulation."
Markets also had deal news for Thursday, with private-equity firm Carlyle Group set to buy nutritional supplements company NBTY /quotes/comstock/13*!nty/quotes/nls/nty (NTY 53.95, +16.48, +43.98%) in a deal valued at $3.8 billion.
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U.S. stocks closed with slight gains Wednesday, with the Dow industrials just managing to extend their recent winning streak, as an upbeat forecast from Intel Corp. vied with more disconcerting views on the U.S. economy from retailers and the Federal Reserve.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended up 3.7 points, or 0.04%, to 10,366.72 for its seventh straight session of gains.
"A second weak retail sales report in a row adds weight to the evidence that the U.S. is slowing -- rate hikes are off the agenda for the foreseeable future," said Rob Carnell, chief international economist with ING in a note to investors.
Among other stocks in focus, shares of Novartis /quotes/comstock/13*!nvs/quotes/nls/nvs (NVS 51.37, +0.62, +1.22%) could be active after the Swiss pharmaceutical group reported second-quarter profit rose to $2.4 billion and the group lifted its sales outlook for the year.
After the U.S. market close, Google /quotes/comstock/15*!goog/quotes/nls/goog (GOOG 488.53, -2.81, -0.57%) will report its own results.
Shares of GlaxoSmithKline /quotes/comstock/13*!gsk/quotes/nls/gsk (GSK 37.04, +0.69, +1.90%) could also be on the move on news the group may keep its diabetes drug Avandia on the U.S. market following a Food and Drug Administration advisory panel recommendation, though the company announced $2.4 billion in legal charges.
Europe shares moved higher after results from J.P. Morgan, as well as getting a lift from news the Spanish government sold $3.8 billion in 15-year bonds amid solid demand.
Markets in Europe and Asia have seen some pressure from China's news that second-quarter gross domestic product grew 10.3% over the same period a year earlier, slowing from the 11.9% annual growth recorded in the first quarter. That was below the 10.5% expansion predicted by economists surveyed by FactSet Research.
"The overall picture suggests that economic activity is feeling the monetary-policy tightening intended to cool down the housing market earlier this year," said analysts at UniCredit, who said data still show more of a "controlled slowdown rather than a hard landing."
Asian stocks finished mostly lower, particularly in Shanghai after the GDP data and a tepid debut for the Agricultural Bank of China.
In the currency markets, the euro /quotes/comstock/21o!x:seurusd (CUR_EURUSD 1.2882, +0.0144, +1.1305%) gained 0.7% to $1.2856.
Barbara Kollmeyer is an editor for MarketWatch in Madrid. Kate Gibson is a reporter for MarketWatch, based in New York.Powered By iWebRSS.com