U.S. stock index futures point to a flat open Thursday ahead of the publication of the Labor Department's weekly jobless claims data and the National Association of Realtors' home sales report.
Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average were up 0.14 percent, the futures on the Standard & Poor's 500 Index were up 0.05 percent and those on the Nasdaq 100 Index were down 0.03 percent.
The Department of Labor is due to report the initial jobless claims report, which measures the number of individuals who filed for unemployment insurance for the first time last week, at 8:30 a.m. EDT. Economists forecast initial jobless claims to be 342,000 for the week ending March 16, up from 332,000 in the previous week.
Meanwhile, Home sales report that measures the change in the annualized number of existing residential buildings sold during the previous month will be made public after the opening bell. Economists expect that the existing home sales would be at an annual rate of 5 million in February, up from January’s 4.92 million.
In addition, Philadelphia Fed Manufacturing Index is expected to show a modest improvement in March to -5.0 from -12.5 recorded in the prior month. The index fell sharply out of positive territory in January and continued to deteriorate in February.
U.S. stock markets advanced Wednesday as investor sentiment was buoyed by Federal Reserve's assurances that it will continue its economy boosting measures. The Fed said that it will continue with its $85 billion per month bond buying program until the outlook for the labor has improved substantially. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.39 percent, the S&P 500 Index was up 0.67 percent and the Nasdaq Composite Index advanced 0.78 percent.
European stock markets were trading lower, with Germany's DAX30 declining 0.17 percent, France's CAC 40 plunging 0.40 percent and London's FTSE 100 slipping 0.10 percent.
Asian stock markets mostly advanced Thursday after a private survey showed that China’s manufacturing activity expanded at a quicker pace in March. The preliminary reading of the HSBC Flash Purchasing Managers Index (PMI), a measure of the nation-wide manufacturing, climbed to 51.7 in March compared to February final reading of 50.4. Japan’s Nikkei climbed 1.34 percent and the China's Shanghai Composite gained 0.30 percent, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng slipped 0.14 percent.
Meanwhile, official data showed released Thursday showed Japan recorded seasonally adjusted trade deficit of 1.1 trillion yen in February compared to 737.3 billion yen in January. Exports increased 1.3 percent on a monthly basis, while imports jumped by 6.8 percent contributing to a wider trade deficit.
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