(By Balachander) U.S. stock-index futures pointed to a flat open on the Wall Street as investors weighed weak forecast from Wal-Mart and a set of economic data as lingering concerns about the looming fiscal cliff also weighed on the sentiment.
Mini Dow Industrial Average futures retreated 31 points to 12,513. The Nasdaq futures inched up 1.50 points to 2,531. Standard and Poor's 500 futures edged 1.10 points lower to 1,351.90.
The number of Americans who continued to receive jobless benefits jumped more than forecast last week, a government data showed. Jobless claims increased 78,000 to 439,000 for the week ended Nov. 10 from a revised 361,000, while economists projected 375,000 applications.
Another report showed that core consumer price index rose 0.2 percent in October, and the headline index inched up 0.1 percent. Economists expected prices to rise 0.1 percent.
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The New York Federal Reserve's empire state manufacturing index for November rose to -5.2 from -6.2 in October, also coming in better than economists expectations of a reading of -6.7.
At 10 am ET, the Philadelphia Federal Reserve's manufacturing index may show a reading of 2.0 for November, down from 5.7 in October.
Investors await speeches by U.S. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and FOMC member Richard Fisher later in the day for hints regarding future monetary policy.
On Wednesday, U.S. stocks ended in the red as the cliff and eurozone concerns dented sentiment. President Barack Obama pushed for higher taxes on wealthy Americans to address the so-called fiscal cliff of roughly $600 billion in spending cuts and tax increases that could hit economic growth.
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In corporate news, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT) shed 3.03 percent in premarket after the world's largest retail chain store operator offered downbeat guidance for the fourth quarter following higher third-quarter earnings.
NetApp Inc. (NASDAQ: NTAP) surged 11.53 percent in premarket after the provider of storage systems reported stonger-than-forecast second-quarter earnings.
Target Corp. (NYSE: TGT) added 1.09 percent in premarket after the discount chain posted a 15 percent increase in quarterly earnings, helped by higher sales and a sales gain and it guided fourth-quarter above consensus.
Ross Stores Inc. (NASDAQ: ROST) fell 2.06 percent in premarket after the off-price retail apparel company said third-quarter profit and sales increased 11 percent.
Dollar Tree Inc. (NASDAQ: DLTR) jumped 5.01 percent in premarket after the operator of discount variety stores posted higher earnings and sales for the third quarter.
Williams-Sonoma Inc. (NYSE: WSM) lost 2.68 percent in premarket after the retailer of home products guided 2012 earnings that trailed market expectations.
Diamond Foods Inc. (NASDAQ: DMND) slumped 21.23 percent in premarket after the maker of Emerald snack nuts posted its restated financial results.
Hot Topic Inc. (NASDAQ: HOTT) jumped 7.48 percent in premarket after the Web-based specialty retailer posted better-than-expected earnings for the third quarter.
European markets traded in red, with Germany's DAX down 0.86 percent to trade at 7,040.68. France's CAC40 shed 0.43 percent to trade at 3,385.45. U.K.'s FTSE 100 declined 0.42 percent to trade at 5,698.26.
Among Asian markets, China's Shanghai Stock Exchange Composite Index lost 1.22 percent to finish at 2,030.29. Japan's Nikkei 225 jumped 1.90 percent to end at 8,829.72. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index retreated 1.55 percent to end at 21,108.93. India's BSE Sensex ended at 18,471.37, down 0.79 percent.
Commodity & Currency Scan
Ahead of the opening bell, crude oil futures added 0.38 percent to $86.65 per barrel. Gold futures dropped 0.72 percent to $1,717.70 per ounce.
In the currency market, the euro rose 0.19 percent against the U.S. dollar to 1.2760, while the British pound was nearly flat at 1.5839. The dollar jumped 1.30 percent against the Japanese yen to 81.2900.