Stocks poised for weak open

By CNNMoney.com staff


NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- U.S. stocks were poised to open lower Thursday, as investors digested FedEx's latest results and weekly data on first-time filers for jobless benefits.

Dow Jones industrial average (INDU), S&P 500 (SPX) and Nasdaq (COMP) futures were down ahead of the opening bell. Futures measure current index values against perceived future performance.

"I think there's still a lot of remaining skepticism about the economy and we're getting the hangover from the yen intervention," said Peter Morici, an economist at the University of Maryland, referring to the Japanese government's move Tuesday to buy up yen in an attempt to curb deflation.

But the yen purchase has also boosted the dollar, which has helped to lift stocks in the last session. Stocks ended higher Wednesday, thanks to a surge in the last half hour of trading tracking the U.S. dollar's gains, after Japan moved to curb the yen's strength.

Economy: The Labor Department's weekly report on initial jobless claims came in lower than expected. This caused futures to back off their lows - but only slightly.

The government reported that 450,000 people filed for first-time benefits for the week ended Sept. 11, down 3,000 from the revised figure for the prior week. Economists had expected 460,000 Americans to have filed for first-time unemployment insurance last week.

Initial claims have been stuck in a tight range since November, and economists say there's little reason to celebrate the recovery until weekly claims head below the 400,000 mark.

The government's latest reading on inflation at the manufacturing level exceeded expectations, albeit slightly. The Producer Price Index rose 0.4% in August, up from an increase of 0.2% the prior month.

Economists had forecast the PPI to show a 0.3% rise in August, according to consensus estimates from Briefing.com. Excluding volatile food and energy prices, core PPI rose 0.1% in August. This was higher than the forecast of a gain of 0.2%.

After the bell, traders will be watching for the Philadelphia Fed Index, which is expected to show modest expansion in the region's manufacturing sector.

Companies: Before the start of Thursday trading, FedEx (FDX, Fortune 500) said it expected to see moderate growth in the global economy, even as it said it would cut 1,700 jobs. The freight company, which is considered a bellwether company for the global economy also reported fiscal first-quarter earnings of $1.20 a share. That's a penny short of estimates but still up 57 cents from a year earlier. Shares of FedEx fell about 2% in premarket trading.

Reporting after the bell, Oracle (ORCL, Fortune 500) is expected to show a profit of 37 cents per share, versus 30 cents a year ago. And BlackBerry maker Research in Motion (RIMM) is forecast to earn $1.35 per share, compared with $1.03 a share a year ago.

Also in focus, Boeing (BA, Fortune 500) said it expects to hire 466,650 pilots and 596,500 maintenance crew workers between 2010 and 2029 to meet growing demand in the airline industry.

Boeing said it expects the airline industry will need to hire more than one million workers over the next 20 years to prepare for a wave of 30,000 new aircraft.

World markets: Asian markets closed lower. Japan's benchmark Nikkei index fell 0.1%, and Hong Kong's Hang Seng index fell 0.2%. The Shanghai Composite sunk 1.9%.

European shares were lower in afternoon trading. The CAC 40 in France lost 0.3%, Germany's DAX fell 0.1%, and Britain's FTSE 100 dipped 0.2%.

Currencies and commodities: The dollar fell against the euro and the Japanese yen, but posted slight gains against Britain's pound.

Oil futures for October delivery fell 90 cents to $75.12 a barrel. Gold for December delivery rose $6.40 to $1,275.10 an ounce.

Gold futures for December delivery jumped to a fresh record intraday high early Thursday, gaining $9.70, or 0.8%, to $1,278.60 an ounce. That trumps the record of $1,276.50 set just two days ago. Gold has gained traction as investors turn more and more to the precious metal as a 'safe haven' play in times of economic uncertainty.

Bonds: The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.70% from 2.74% late Wednesday.  To top of page

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