Stocks Seen Opening Lower on Mixed Earnings News

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Stan Honda, AFP/Getty Images
By Sreeja VN

U.S. stock index futures point to a lower open Thursday, ahead of the publication of jobless claims data, durable goods orders and earnings announcements from companies such as 3M, General Motors, and Starbucks.

Futures on the Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) were down 0.4 percent, while futures on the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GSPC)were down 0.7 percent and those on the Nasdaq 100 Index were down 0.3 percent.

Investors are likely to focus on durable goods orders to be reported at 8:30 a.m. Eastern time. Analysts polled by Reuters predict that durable goods orders, which measure the change in the total value of new orders for long-lasting manufactured goods, may increase 1.5 percent in June after gaining 3.7 percent in May and 3.6 percent in April. The core durable goods orders for June, which excludes transportation items, are expected to increase 0.6 percent after gaining 0.7 percent in May.

The initial jobless claims report, which measures the number of individuals who filed for unemployment insurance for the first time last week, is scheduled to be released by the Department of Labor at 8:30 a.m. Eastern time. Economists polled by Bloomberg predict that claims are likely to increase to 341,000 for the week ended July 20, up from 334,000 in the previous week.

Meanwhile, economists expect continuing jobless claims data, which measure the number of unemployed individuals who qualify for benefits under unemployment insurance, to decrease to 3 million from the 3.11 million recorded in the previous week.

On the earnings front, a number of major companies, including Southwest Airlines (LUV), Sirius XM Radio (SIRI), Xerox (XRX), Colgate-Palmolive (CL), General Motors (GM) and 3M (MMM) will announce quarterly earnings before market hours. Starbucks (SBUX), Amazon (AMZN) and Zynga (ZNGA) will announce their earnings after markets close Thursday.

European markets traded sharply lower Thursday, despite UK's second-quarter gross domestic product data and Germany's Ifo Business Climate Index coming in line with expectations, as sentiment was hurt by disappointing earnings from British firms such as Unilever (UN) and BT Group (BT).

The Stoxx Europe 600 index fell 0.9 percent, London's FTSE 100 was down 1 percent, Germany's DAX-30 was down 1.3 percent and France's CAC-40 was trading down 0.9 percent.

The UK economy grew at 0.6 percent in the second quarter, up from 0.3 percent recorded in the first quarter of the year, and in line with analyst expectations, official data released Thursday showed.

"Prospects look good for a continuation of the recovery in the third quarter, with consumers and businesses both helping drive the upturn. There are even signs that exporters will see improved sales, helping drive the long-awaited re-balancing of the economy," Chris Williamson, chief economist at Markit, wrote in a research note.

In Germany, the Ifo Business Climate Index, which rates the current German business climate and measures expectations for the next six months, rose for the third time in succession to 106.2 in July, up from 105.9 recorded in the previous survey. Analysts had expected the survey to show a reading of 106.1.

In Asia, most markets traded lower Thursday, tracking moderate losses in U.S. stock markets in the previous day's session.

Japan's Nikkei ended down 1.14 percent, the Shanghai Composite index ended down 0.6 percent while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index lost 0.3 percent. South Korea's KOSPI Composite index ended down 0.1 percent and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 ended flat. India's BSE Sensex was trading down 1.4 percent in late-afternoon trade.

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