By Barbara Kollmeyer, MarketWatch
NEW YORK (MarketWatch) â" U.S. stock futures lost early gains on Thursday, after the Labor Department reported a bigger-than-expected increase in weekly jobless claims.
A downgrade of Japanâs sovereign debt was also in the spotlight.
Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 6 points to 11,930, while those for the S&P 500 index were down 2.3 points at 1,291.40.
Futures for the Nasdaq 100 were little changed at 2,319.
Fed keeps cheap money flowing
At their first policy-setting meeting of 2011, central bank officials vote unanimously to continue buying government bonds to boost the recovery.
The Dow Industrials /quotes/comstock/10w!i:dji/delayed (DJIA 11,986, +0.57, +0.00%) topped 12,000 on an intraday-level basis for the first time in over two years on Wednesday, in the wake of positive housing data and President Obamaâs State of the Union address.
The Dow finished up 0.1% to 11,985.44.
Analysts said investors will be waiting to see if the Dow retests that key 12,000 level on Thursday, amid a heavy schedule of data and earnings.
Jobless claims jumped by 51,000 to 454,000 last week, partly because poor weather caused administrative backlogs in four Southern states. Economists polled by MarketWatch had expected claims to rise to 408,000 from a revised 403,000 the week before.
Separately, orders for U.S.-made durable goods sank 2.5% in December, against expectations for 1% increase. Excluding transportation, orders rose 0.5%
Data on pending home sales are due at 10 a.m. Eastern.
Thursdayâs data, however, were taken in the context of broadly positive economic reports recently, according to Jennifer Lee, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets.
âThe economy continues to grow, and that view hasnât changed despite some volatile data seen today,â she wrote in a note.
Bullish investors are also hoping for more of the same from tomorrowâs estimate of U.S. growth in the fourth quarter.
The earnings schedule was also heavy, with stocks reacting in preopen trades on results released on Thursday, and after the close of markets on Wednesday.
Caterpillar Inc. /quotes/comstock/13*!cat/quotes/nls/cat (CAT 96.91, +1.16, +1.21%) Â shares rose 1.7% after it said profit reached $968 million, or $1.47 a share, from $232 million, or 36 cents a share, in the year-ago period.Powered By iWebRSS.com