Stock futures indicated a lower open on Wall Street Thursday, with investors uninterested in building on Wednesday's gains.
The move comes ahead of employment data from the federal government and an interest-rate policy press conference from the European Central Bank chief. It follows news that DJIA component Kraft (KFT ) would split into two companies.
Global markets showed mixed results Thursday. Japan's Nikkei ended with a gain of 0.20%. Tokyo said it would begin selling yen in an effort to weaken the currency, which has risen fast in recent days. It's the third such move this year. Elsewhere in the region, traders sent stocks lower on continued worries about a worldwide economic slowdown.
European stocks were trading lower before Wall Street's open. As expected, the European Central Bank left its key lending rate unchanged at 1.5%. Analysts will be listening to the press conference from ECB chief Jean-Claude Trichet later this morning for signals of future policy changes.
The euro edged down vs. the dollar following the ECB announcement.
Gold, which has been rocketing to new highs, continued along its trajectory early Thursday, adding $3.80 to $1,670.10 per ounce.
West Texas Intermediate crude fell by a dollar, to $90.93 per barrel.
Today's economic news includes the eagerly anticipated weekly jobless claims report from the Labor Department, at 8:30 a.m. EDT. Last week the number of new claims fell below the 400,000 mark, so analysts will be watching to see if that was the beginning of a trend or an outlier.
Chain stores release their July sales figures today. Analysts anticipate an increase over June, as deep discounts and warm weather drew shoppers into stores. Warehouse operators, such as Costco (COST ), are expected to show the biggest gains.
As usual, Costco jumped out of the gate early with its results. Same-store sales were up 10% last month, beating analysts' views. Higher gasoline prices and stronger foreign currencies contributed to the results. Without those factors, sales rose 5%, slightly below views. Costco shares slipped two cents in the premarket, a fractional decline, to $77.06.
In deal news, Kraft said it would divide its grocery and snack businesses into two separately traded entities. The grocery business is more mature and stable, while the snack-food business is seeing fast growth from emerging markets.
The company also reported second-quarter earnings of $0.62 per share, topping views of $0.58. Revenue also came in ahead of expectations, at $13.9 billion. Analysts had pegged sales at $13.16 billion.
CVS Caremark (CVS ) reported second-quarter earnings per share of $0.60, below views of $0.64 per share. Revenue came in at $26.6 billion, slightly below expectations of $26.8 billion. Same-store sales grew 2% in the quarter.
General Motors (GM ) topped second-quarter earnings views by a long shot, reporting per-share net income of $1.54 vs. expectations of $1.20. Revenue was also strong, at $39.4 billion. Wall Street had expected $36.7 billion. The company said all its global regions were profitable.
Shares rose $0.75, 2.8%, to $27.92 immediately following the news.
Growth leader Priceline (PCLN ) is due out with its second-quarter results after the bell. Analysts expect net income of $4.87 a share and revenue of $1.1 billion. Last week, fellow online travel site Expedia (EXPE ) reported better-than-expected quarterly results. Priceline is continuing to consolidate gains following a pullback from its all-time high of $561.88, reached on May 2. It's currently finding support at its 10-week moving average.
Premarket movers included Dendreon (DNDN ), which said late Wednesday that it expects lower sales of its Provenge prostate cancer drug. The price of treatment is about $93,000. Medicare covers costs, but because the government can be slow to reimburse health care providers, there has been a cash-flow management issue for health care providers. That is hurting sales. Dendreon shares plummeted $21.44, 59.82%, to $14.40.
An upside mover ahead of the bell was Zipcar (ZIP ), an auto-sharing company that went public in April. After Wednesday's close, the company reported a loss of $0.17 per share, but that was better than analysts had expected. Revenue climbed 34% from the year-earlier quarter, driven by membership growth and a U.K. acquisition. Zipcar shares advanced $1.91, 8.27%, to $25 ahead of the open.
Among analyst moves was a Piper Jaffray upgrade of McDonald's (MCDS ) to Overweight from Neutral, citing strength in same-store sales trends. McDonald's shares fell $0.27 to $85.27 in early trade.
Goldman Sachs upgraded Tiffany & Co. (TIF ) to Neutral from Sell. Even in a doom-and-gloom economy, sales of luxury goods continue to be strong. Tiffany shares are down 8.2% this week, but are showing an advance of 17.34% year-to-date.