U.S. Stock Futures Flat Before Jobless Claims

First Published Thursday, 6th December 2012 11:44 am - © 2012 Dow Jones


U.S. stock-index futures were little changed Thursday as investors awaited data on weekly jobless claims, amid a lack of progress on talks aimed at averting the so-called fiscal cliff.

An upbeat tone in Europe, however, appeared to provide some underlying support.

Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 10 points, or 0.1%, to 13034.

S&P 500 index futures gained 0.2 point, or less than 0.1%, to 1408.50, while Nasdaq 100 futures lost 0.5 point to 2637.

"With no new big news out surrounding the fiscal cliff, Wall Street was looking for a broadly unchanged start to Thursday's session, but a strong start in Europe ahead of the [European Central Bank] verdict does seem to be delivering support for the futures," said Fawad Razaqzada, market strategist at GFT Markets in London.

Neither President Barack Obama nor House Republicans appeared set to give ground in the battle to avert the fiscal cliff, a package of tax hikes and spending cuts set to take effect Jan. 1.

Move the sidelines?

Unless negotiations show progress, traders may face an overwhelming temptation to head to the sidelines until after the release of November nonfarm payrolls data on Friday, Razaqzada said.

Economists surveyed by MarketWatch expect November nonfarm payrolls to show a rise of 80,000, with growth damped by the impact of Hurricane Sandy after a rise of 171,000 in October.

But first, investors Thursday will get a look at the latest weekly data on claims for unemployment benefits at 8:30 a.m. EST.

The number of Americans who filed first-time applications for jobless benefits last week is expected to fall to 375,000 from 393,000 as the effects of Hurricane Sandy recede, according to economists surveyed by MarketWatch. Claims surged shortly after the devastating storm.

Claims, however, were in the low 360,000s before Sandy, and if they don't return to that level, it could signal that the U.S. labor market has deteriorated.

ECB and Draghi

The timing of the release coincides with ECB President Mario Draghi's monthly news conference. The ECB is widely expected to hold steady on policy.

European stocks rose, with the Stoxx Europe 600 index up 0.5% in recent action.

Investors, meanwhile, are likely to keep a close eye on Apple Inc. (AAPL) after the shares slumped 6.4% on Wednesday, marking its biggest single-day percentage loss since December 2008.

Analysts cited several factors in the selloff, including bearish technicals, worries about the health of the economy, and a court hearing Thursday regarding a long-running battle with archrival Samsung.

Shares of Walter Energy Inc. (WLT) may also be in focus.

The U.K. Daily Mail on Wednesday reported, without saying where it got the information, that BHP Billiton (BHP), the Australian mining giant, is considering a cash bid of $55 a share for the Birmingham, Ala., producer of coal for the steel industry and other uses. Walter shares closed Wednesday at $31.66 a share.

Nymex crude oil futures rose 23 cents in electronic trade to $88.11 a barrel. Gold futures for February delivery fell $1.40 an ounce to $1,692.40.

The dollar was little changed, with the dollar index (DXY), a measure of the currency against a basket of six major rivals, slipping to 79.777, compared with 79.886 in North American trade late Wednesday.

-Write to William L. Watts at AskNewswires@dowjones.com

HOT STOCKS TO WATCH

Among the companies with shares expected to actively trade in Thursday's session are Men's Wearhouse Inc. (MW), Vera Bradley Inc. (VRA) and Garmin Ltd. (GRMN).

Men's Wearhouse's fiscal third-quarter earnings rose 22% as the apparel retailer reported strong sales growth but lowered its guidance for the year. Shares fell 9.7% to $28.31 after hours Wednesday as the company noted it saw negative November same-store sales in the U.S. and Canada as a result of lower traffic levels at its retail stores.

Vera Bradley's fiscal third-quarter earnings climbed 37% as the handbag maker's same-store sales and margins strengthened. However, shares fell 9.8% to $23.65 after hours as the company offered downbeat fourth-quarter guidance and lowered its full-year revenue expectations.

Standard & Poor's said it will add personal-navigation devices maker Garmin to its S&P 500 index, replacing printing company R.R. Donnelley & Sons Co. (RRD). Garmin shares rose 4.5% to $41.50 after hours.

Align Technology Inc. (ALGN) said it is cutting jobs and shuffling management as part of an organizational change, and the maker of Invisalign braces expects fourth-quarter profit and revenue at the lower end of its previous downbeat guidance. Shares were down 6.2% to $24.51 after hours.

Ascena Retail Group Inc.'s (ASNA) fiscal first-quarter income fell 9.3% as the women's apparel retailer saw increased costs wipe away sharply higher revenue. However, shares rose 2.1% after hours to $20.20 as adjusted earnings beat estimates.

Delcath Systems Inc. (DCTH) said it is seeking Food and Drug Administration approval for a narrower use than initially anticipated for a new liver cancer drug, based on FDA guidance. Shares fell 7.5% to $1.35 after hours.

Finisar Corp.'s (FNSR) fiscal second-quarter earnings fell 95% as the telecommunication-equipment provider reported weaker revenue and margins. However, shares rose 5.7%, to $14.11 in after-hours trading, as the company reported that sales improved from its fiscal first quarter and that it made progress in controlling its operating costs.

Memorial Production Partners LP (MEMP) is offering 10.5 million units representing limited partner interests as the company looks to raise funds for a pending acquisition of oil and natural gas properties. The limited partnership had 16.9 million common units outstanding as of Oct. 31. Units slipped 3.1% to $17.50 after hours.

NovaBay Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NBY) plans to offer an undisclosed number of shares of common stock and warrants. The biotechnology company had about 29.8 million shares outstanding as of Oct. 29. Shares dropped 12% to $1.23 after hours.

Watch List:

Athenahealth Inc. (ATHN) offered earnings guidance for 2013 below analyst expectations.

Used-electronics seller TechForward Inc. said a federal court in California has awarded it $27 million in damages after finding that Best Buy Co. (BBY) misused its trade secrets.

Broadcom Corp. (BRCM) raised the lower end of its fourth-quarter revenue guidance and improved its margin outlook, as the chip maker cited slightly better-than-expected revenue in its mobile and wireless business.

Chevron Corp. (CVX) said Wednesday it would spend $36.7 billion in capital projects in 2013, up 12% from 2012, an increase partially due to rising costs in a mammoth liquefied natural gas project in Australia.

Citrix Systems Inc. (CTXS) has agreed to purchase mobile device management company Zenprise Inc., a move that allows the software company to offer a comprehensive product line for managing mobile devices, applications and data.

Derma Sciences Inc. (DSCI) intends to offer shares of its common stock, but didn't say how much. The medical device and pharmaceutical company had about 13 million shares outstanding as of Nov. 8.

Emulex Corp. (ELX) said it will acquire networking-products company Endace Ltd. (EDA.LN) for about $130 million, a move the networking and storage company said will place it another high-margin, high-growth market.

KAR Auction Services Inc. (KAR) said an offering of 13.5 million of its shares priced at a 3.5% discount to its Wednesday close.

Pacific Premier Bancorp Inc. (PPBI) plans to offer about $30 million of its common stock and will use proceeds for general corporate purposes. The Southern California bank recently had a market capitalization of $106 million, according to FactSet Research.

PRGX Global Inc. (PRGX) announced an offering of 6.2 million of its shares priced at $6.39 a piece, matching its Wednesday close.

Roadrunner Transportation Systems Inc. (RRTS) has launched an offering of 3.5 million shares. The transportation and logistics services provider is offering 3.4 million shares, while a selling stockholder is offering the remaining 100,000 shares. The company had about 31 million shares outstanding as of Nov. 7.

SAIC Inc. (SAI) swung to fiscal third-quarter profit as the government-services contractor benefited from sales growth and lower overhead expenses and the year-earlier period included a large provision related to its the CityTime contract.

Select Income REIT (SIR) said its upsized offering of 7 million shares priced at a slight discount to its Wednesday close.

Sigma Designs Inc.'s (SIGM) fiscal third-quarter loss narrowed as an acquisition boosted the chip manufacturer's revenue and as a significant write-down hurt year-earlier results.

Stryker Corp.'s (SYK) board has increased its quarterly dividend by 25% and authorized an additional $405 million in share repurchases, as the medical-device maker looks to boost shareholder returns.

Write to Nathalie Tadena at nathalie.tadena@dowjones.com

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