U.S. equities were set to open moderately higher Thursday after Wednesday's downside reversal, which came in heavier volume than Tuesday's session. However, true to holiday-season patterns, turnover yesterday was well below normal levels.
Overseas, an auction of Italian bonds on Thursday brought good demand and lower yields from last month, though yields were still above levels that many traders had hoped to see.
The euro was sinking to levels near January's multiyear low, and edged downward vs. the U.S. dollar early Thursday.
Major European indices showed gains before Wall Street's open, although off earlier highs. Chemicals and resources were among leading sectors.
In Asia, many traders took a cue from the U.S., sending stocks lower ahead of Italy's bond auction. As the yen rose vs. the euro, Japan's exporters showed losses.
Crude oil rose $0.32, to $99.68 per barrel. It hovered just below the $100 mark, despite tensions related to Iran's threat to blockade the Strait of Hormuz, and the Pentagon's warning that the action "will not be tolerated."
Gold, which was battered in Wednesday trade, shed another $33.50 early Thursday, to $1,530.60 per ounce.
A batch of economic reports are set for release today -- the last major reports to be issued in 2011. The Labor Department issues its weekly unemployment claims numbers at 8:30 a.m. EST, with economists pegging new claims at 372,000. Last week, new claims came in at 364,000.
At 9:45, Kingsbury International releases the Chicago Purchasing Managers Index, a snapshot of manufacturing activity in the Windy City region. Analysts expect a reading of 61 for December, down from last month's 62.6.
The National Association of Realtors issues its pending home sales report for November at 10 a.m. The index is expected to show a gain of 1.4%, following October's surprising jump of 10.4%.
The Energy Department's weekly report on crude oil reserves was pushed back from its usual Wednesday release because of Monday's federal holiday. The data are due out at 10:30 a.m. today. Yesterday's report by the private American Petroleum Institute showed reserves increasing by 9.57 million barrels last week.
AMR (AMR), parent company of American Airlines, which filed for bankruptcy protection last month, could be in danger of being delisted from the NYSE. Shares closed at $0.54 Wednesday, putting the stock's 30-day average price below the minimum listing requirement of $1.
Yahoo! (YHOO) was a premarket gainer, advancing $0.34, or 2.15%, to $16.12. Alibaba, the China-based e-commerce company of which Yahoo is part owner, has reportedly hired a Washington lobbying firm to aid in efforts to make a bid for its parent.
Shares of BP (BP) fell $0.37, 0.87%, to $41.99 ahead of the bell. The Justice Department is said to be considering a criminal complaint against some of BP's Houston-based employees in connection with last year's Deepwater Horizon disaster. The employees would be charged with providing false information to regulators.
Several analysts have initiated coverage on recent initial public offerings this week, and those actions continued this morning. Internet radio company Pandora Media (P), which went public in June, was started with a rating of Neutral at Collins Stewart. The analyst cited concerns about profitability and growing competition in the space. Pandora's IPO price was $16; shares closed Wednesday at $10.01.
Collins Stewart also began coverage on LinkedIn (LNKD) with a rating of Buy. Growing usage and little direct competition were among factors behind the rating. The social network aimed at business professionals made its NYSE debut in May at $45. Shares closed at $61.73 on Wednesday.