By Polya Lesova, MarketWatch
LONDON (MarketWatch) â" U.S. stock futures edged lower on Thursday after data showed weekly jobless claims rose to the highest level in more than two months, raising concerns about the labor market.
Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average /quotes/comstock/21b!f:dj\h11 (DJH11 11,700, -8.00, -0.07%) Â fell 23 points to 11,685 and S&P 500 futures /quotes/comstock/21m!f:sp\h11 (SPH11 1,281, -2.50, -0.19%) Â slipped 1.80 points to 1,281.60.
Nasdaq 100 futures /quotes/comstock/21m!f:nd\h11 (NDH11 2,303, -1.75, -0.08%) Â dropped 1.50 points to 2,303.20.
Bank of Koreaâs rate surprise
South Korea joins the Asian trend of raising interest rates, surprising economists.
The declines came after a report said the number of U.S. workers who filed new applications for jobless benefits surged by 35,000 last week to 445,000. A government official attributed the sharp increase largely to administrative backlogs.
Separately, data showed a 1.1% rise in December producer prices and a narrowing of the U.S. trade deficit by 0.3% in November to $38.3 billion.
Later in the day, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke will speak at a small-business lending forum.
European markets were mostly lower after the previous sessionâs rally. The Stoxx Europe 600 index /quotes/comstock/22c!sxxp (ST:STOXX600 284.34, -1.45, -0.51%) Â fell 0.5% in intraday trading.
Bucking the negative trend, Spainâs benchmark index rose 2.4%, as shares of BBVA /quotes/comstock/13*!bbva/quotes/nls/bbva (BBVA 10.30, +1.09, +11.83%) Â /quotes/comstock/06x!e:bbva (ES:BBVA 8.30, +0.53, +6.78%) Â surged nearly 7%.
The Spanish government sold 3 billion euros ($3.9 billion) in five-year bonds, though its borrowing costs rose compared to a November auction. Italy also successfully conducted a bond sale.
âThere shouldnât be any major surprises in these auctions as the process is being heavily managed by the authorities, but the level of yields/participation in these deals are worth noting,â Deutsche Bank said in a note published ahead of the auctions.
The euro gained 1% to $1.3242.
The dollar index /quotes/comstock/11j!i:dxy0 (DXY 79.47, -0.57, -0.71%) , which tracks the performance of the greenback against a basket of other major currencies, slipped 0.5% to 79.590, adding to losses after the U.S. economic data was released.
ECBâs Trichet in spotlight
The Bank of England left its benchmark interest rate unchanged at 0.5% and it also kept its bond-buying program on hold.
The European Central Bank also kept monetary policy steady, as expected. The market is now focusing on ECB President Jean-Claude Trichetâs press conference, which started at 8:30 a.m. Eastern.
Trichet is certain to be asked about the ECBâs role in the euro-zone bond markets and its plans about an eventual exit from its accommodative monetary policy given rising inflationary pressures.
Shares of Marathon Oil Corp. /quotes/comstock/13*!mro/quotes/nls/mro (MRO 40.53, +0.81, +2.04%) Â rallied 11% in premarket trade after the company said its board of directors has approved a plan to split the company in two.
Shares of insurance giant American International Group Inc. /quotes/comstock/13*!aig/quotes/nls/aig (AIG 58.40, -0.64, -1.08%) Â may see active trading after the firm said late Wednesday that it expects to close its recapitalization Friday and repay the U.S. government fully for the aid it received during the financial crisis.
In other news, home furnishings group Williams-Sonoma Inc. /quotes/comstock/13*!wsm/quotes/nls/wsm (WSM 34.18, +0.21, +0.62%) Â raised its outlook for fiscal fourth-quarter earnings and said same-store sales in the eight-week period to Dec. 26 rose 5%.
U.S.-listed shares of Infosys Technologies Ltd. /quotes/comstock/15*!infy/quotes/nls/infy (INFY 76.68, +1.48, +1.97%) Â slipped 5.5% in thin premarket trading after the Indian IT services group reported weaker-than-expected quarterly results.
After the U.S. market closes, chip giant Intel Corp. /quotes/comstock/15*!intc/quotes/nls/intc (INTC 21.30, +0.25, +1.20%) Â is expected to report fourth-quarter earnings of 53 cents a share, according to a survey of analysts by FactSet Research.
In Asia overnight, stock markets finished mostly higher, with Japanâs Nikkei Stock Average rising 0.7%.
And in the commodity markets, oil futures fell 31 cents to $91.55 a barrel in electronic trading on Globex and gold futures were flat at $1,385 an ounce.
The blue-chip Dow index /quotes/comstock/10w!i:dji/delayed (DJIA 11,755, +83.56, +0.72%) Â rose 0.7% to end at 11,755.44 on Wednesday, posting its highest close since August 2008.
Polya Lesova is chief of MarketWatchâs London bureau.Powered By iWebRSS.com