Thursday, December 30, 2010

Indications: U.S. stock futures off lows as joblessness drops

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By Aude Lagorce and Nick Godt, MarketWatch

NEW YORK (MarketWatch) â€" Stock futures pared losses on Wall Street Thursday after the Labor Department said U.S. jobless claims fell below 400,000 in the latest week, their lowest level since July 2008.

After slumping more than 30 points, futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average recently fell 11 points to 11,521. Futures for the Nasdaq 100 slipped 1.25 points to 2,227.25. Futures for the S&P 500 dipped 1.3 points to 1,254.50.

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Initial claims for regular state unemployment insurance benefits fell 34,000 to a seasonally adjusted 388,000 in the week ended Dec. 25.

Economists surveyed by MarketWatch expected a drop to 413,000.

The Chicago Purchasing Managers Index for December comes out at 9.45 a.m. Eastern, and is expected to fall to 61% from 62.5% in November.

Finally pending home sales for November will be released at 10 a.m. Eastern.

On Wednesday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average /quotes/comstock/10w!i:dji/delayed (DJIA 11,556, -29.33, -0.25%)  gained 9.84 points, or 0.09%, to 11,585.38, while the S&P 500 Index /quotes/comstock/21z!i1:in\x (SPX 1,257, -3.19, -0.25%)  and Nasdaq Composite Index /quotes/comstock/10y!i:comp (COMP 2,663, -4.16, -0.16%)  both saw marginal gains.

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Shares of Endo Pharmaceuticals Holdings Inc. /quotes/comstock/15*!endp/quotes/nls/endp (ENDP 36.06, +0.84, +2.39%)  rose 4% in pre-open trade after the firm said late Wednesday it has received approval from the Food and Drug Administration for a low-testosterone treatment.

In the airline sector shares of United Continental /quotes/comstock/13*!ual/quotes/nls/ual (UAL 23.82, +0.36, +1.53%)  could climb after the firm said fleet-service workers at its Continental unit have ratified a new contract.

Finally shares of private-equity giant Blackstone Group LP /quotes/comstock/13*!bx/quotes/nls/bx (BX 14.32, -0.04, -0.26%)  may be on the move after The Wall Street Journal reported it made a preliminary bid for the assets of Australian shopping-mall owner Centro Properties Group.

European stocks quickly lost their grip on early gains Thursday. The Stoxx Europe 600 index /quotes/comstock/22c!sxxp (ST:STOXX600 277.12, -3.51, -1.25%)  fell 0.9% to 277.99.

Most Asian markets also weakened. Exporters, weighed down by the strength of the Japanese yen against other currencies, dragged Tokyo lower. In China, the central bank’s fresh monetary-tightening measures aimed at curbing inflation weighed on stocks.

Turning to metal prices, which have climbed to records recently, gold futures for February delivery fell $5.30 to $1,408.20 an ounce. Copper futures for March delivery rose 5 cents, or 1.1%, to $4.36 a pound in New York.

Crude-oil futures were lower at $90.45 a barrel.

In currency markets the euro was up 0.2% against the dollar at $1.363 The dollar, which hit a three-week low against the yen earlier this week, was roughly flat against the Japanese currency at ¥81.50.

Aude Lagorce is a senior correspondent for MarketWatch in London. Nick Godt is MarketWatch's markets editor, based in New York.

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