U.S. stock futures were flat Thursday morning following a policy decision in Europe and disappointing jobs figures at home.
Initial jobless claims, a precursor to Friday's nonfarms payrolls report, rose more than expected, as 16,000 American filed for first-time unemployment benefits last week. Economists expected a less robust increase to 320,000 new claims instead of the seasonally adjusted 326,000 number released by the Labor Department this morning.
At the same time, the trade deficit unexpectedly grew in February, expanding to $42.3 billion. Analysts had expected the trade gap to narrow to $38.8 billion from the previous month.
Still to come is Markit's purchasing managers' services index, which is expected to gain slightly in March -- to 53.9 vs. 53.3 in the previous month. That reports comes out at 9:45 a.m. Eastern Time. It will be followed closely by the Institute for Supply Management's non-manufacturing index for March, seen rising to 53.3 vs. 51.6 in February. That report is due at 10 a.m.
Overseas, European markets swooned after the European Central Bank announced it would leave interest rates unchanged, a result that had been widely expected. Asian markets closed mostly higher.
Returning to U.S. stocks, on Wednesday the market extended a four-day win streak as the S&P 500 and Dow flirted with record closes, but the indices may be sensitive today to comments from St. Louis Federal Reserve President James Bullard. In an interview with Bloomberg, Mr. Bullard said slowing inflation could temporarily dampen the central bank's tapering plans.
Earnings results are slim this morning, but among the releases was fashion house Perry Ellis (PERY), which beat quarterly net-income estimates by $0.03 per share. Chemicals maker RPM (RPM) bested profit views by $0.03 per share, as well, but missed on revenue. After the close, Global Payments (GPN) and Micron Technology (MU) are among the companies due to report.
In company news, The New York Times reports that Citigroup (C) faces a criminal investigation over its recent disclosure of a $400 million fraud in its Mexican unit. Google (GOOG) stock is set for a 2:1 stock split today, in which Class C shares will remain with the "GOOG" ticker and Class A shares will change to "GOOGL".
Elsewhere, BMO Capital issued several notes in the oil space, designating Chevron (CVX) and ConocoPhillips (COP) at new Market Perform ratings and Exxon Mobil (XOM) at a new Underperform. And Piper Jaffray rated Xilinx (XLNX), an Action Alerts PLUS holding, a new Neutral.