Thursday, November 12, 2009

Stock futures point to lower start on Wall Street

unemployment insurance benefits

Wall Street is looking at a lower open as news of an improving job market fail to offset the market's disappointment over sales at Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

The Labor Department says new claims for unemployment insurance fell to a seasonally adjusted 502,000 from an upwardly revised 514,000 the previous week. That's the fewest claims since the week ending Jan. 3, and below economists' estimates.

The news is evidence the job market is slowly healing.

But investors are more concerned by Wal-Mart's lower than expected third-quarter sales, a sign of weak consumer spending.

Dow Jones industrial average futures are down 34, or 0.3 percent, at 10,225. Standard & Poor's 500 index futures are down 4.40, or 0.4 percent, at 1,091.90, while Nasdaq 100 index futures are down 5.50, or 0.3 percent, at 1,778.25.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

Wall Street appeared headed for a lower opening Thursday as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. had disappointing news on consumer spending.

Although the nation's biggest retailer reported third quarter earnings that beat analysts' expectations, it said sales dropped at stores open at least a year — a key indicator of a retailer's strength. Wal-Mart also said that key sales gauge would range from a drop of 1 percent to a gain of 1 percent in its fourth quarter, a disappointing range for investors.

Because of its size, Wal-Mart is seen as a key indicator of consumer spending trends. Investors are concerned about consumers' ability to lift the economy into a strong recovery.

Meanwhile, Kohl's Corp. said higher sales helped third-quarter profit rise 21 percent.

Both Wal-Mart and Kohl's raised their full-year guidance.

The reports come a day after Macy's Inc. reported that its sales improved during the quarter. Nordstrom Inc. and Walt Disney Co. are also due to report results after the market closes Thursday.

Ahead of the opening, Dow Jones industrial average futures fell 51, or 0.5 percent, to 10,208. Standard & Poor's 500 index futures fell 6.00, or 0.6 percent, to 1,090.30, while Nasdaq 100 index futures fell 10.00, or 0.6 percent, to 1,773.75.

Investors were already pausing before the retail earnings reports, having sent stock prices sharply higher over the past week. Record-low interest rates and the resulting slide in the dollar have been major forces behind the recent surge in stocks.

But the euro was up slightly against the dollar Thursday. Gold prices fell, while oil prices also edged lower.

The market was also waiting for the Labor Department's weekly report on first-time claims for unemployment benefits, an indicator of how the job market is faring. The report, due out at 8:30 a.m. EST, is projected to show new unemployment insurance claims dropped by 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 510,000 last week, according to economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters. That would be the lowest total since early January.

Markets overseas were mostly lower. Japan's benchmark Nikkei stock average fell 0.7 percent. In afternoon trading, Britain's FTSE 100 was flat, Germany's DAX index slipped 0.1 percent and France's CAC-40 fell 0.2 percent.

Bond prices were mixed. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves opposite its price, fell to 3.46 percent from 3.48 percent late Tuesday. The yield on the three-month T-bill, considered one of the safest investments, rose to 0.07 percent from 0.06 percent late Tuesday. Bond markets were closed Wednesday for Veterans Day.