In the Headlines
U.S. equity futures reversed off earlier lows Thursday, with markets looking to rebound after yesterday's losses on major indices.
When it came to driving market action, good economic news Wednesday was no match for Fed Chief Ben Bernanke, who dashed hopes for more quantitative easing when he testified before Congress. Bernanke returns to Capitol Hill today to testify before the Senate Banking Committee.
Meanwhile, developments from the European Central Bank (ECB) spurred gains in overseas trade this morning. In Spain and Italy, bond yields fell in this morning's auctions, following the ECB's infusion of loan money to European banks.
The major bourses showed significant gains ahead of Wall Street's open.
In Asia, indices closed significantly lower. Conflicting manufacturing data from China and a strengthening yen contributed to losses throughout the region.
Stateside, it's a busy day for economic data. Reports include the weekly jobless claims numbers from the Labor Department, which is slated an 8:30 a.m. EST release. Economists are anticipating that new claims will come in in at 351,000, unchanged from last week.
Also at 8:30 a.m., the Commerce Department is set to issue personal income and spending data. Analysts expect a rise of 0.4% on both fronts.
At 10 a.m., Commerce will step up again, this time with construction spending numbers for January. Economists are eyeing a gain of 1%, down from December's increase of 1.5%
The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) will also releases its manufacturing index for February at 10 a.m. Economists expect a gain last month, to 54.5, up from January's reading of 54.1. This is essentially a sentiment index of purchasing managers, rather than a gauge of economic activity.
In commodities moves, crude oil was up by a dime, to $107.17 per barrel in electronic trade.
Gold was up $2.70 per ounce, to $1,714 in early Comex trade. The move follows a significant intraday pullback Wednesday.
Cars and Chain Stores
It's the first day of a new month, so that means auto sales data will roll in from the manufacturers. Analysts expect a 3% year-over-year February gain, to nearly 1.1 million vehicles. With gas prices on the rise, analysts are expecting to see strength in sales of more fuel-efficient cars.
Chain stores will also release their February same-store sales. Limited Brands (LTD) said stores open at least a year showed a gain of 8%, beating views of a 6.2% increase. Limited shares were down by a quarter in early trade, a decline of 0.54%, to $46.28 in early trade.
Costco (COST) said late Wednesday that second-quarter profit and sales beat analysts' views. Same-store sales for February also topped expectations.
In Thursday deal news, DJIA component Caterpillar (CAT) said it would buy out Japanese venture partner Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in a deal valued at about $450 million.
Today's earnings reports include fourth-quarter numbers from Kroger (KR). The grocer is expected to show income of $0.49 a share on sales of $21.43 billion. Those would mark year-over-year increases.
A premarket gainer was oil services company Halliburton (HAL), advancing $0.50, or 1.37%, to $37.09. The early move was a rebound from yesterday's 2.9% loss in heavy volume.
On the downside, CME Group (CME) shed $2.48, 0.86%, to $287.01 in early trade. CLSA downgraded the futures-exchange operator to Underperform from Outperform, citing weak fundamentals and expected pressures on shares this month, once a special dividend is paid.
Credit Suisse reinstated coverage on recent IPO Fusion-io (FIO) with a rating of Outperform. Fusion-io, which provides data storage for corporate customers, and counts Facebook among its biggest users, gained $1.15 ahead of the bell. That was an increase of 4.21%, to $28.45.