Stocks set to retreat

By CNNMoney.com staff


NEW YORK(CNNMoney.com) -- U.S. stocks were poised for a lower start Thursday, as investors reacted to a higher-than-expected report on weekly jobless claims and awaited news on the housing market.

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

Investors continued to eye gold prices, which continue to hover near $1,300 but have backed off the most recent record highs set in the previous session.

Stocks retreated Wednesday amid concerns about the economy and after gold prices touched a new record near $1,300 an ounce.

A sell-off in Europe was also pressuring U.S. stock futures, said Marc Riddick, chief investment strategist for Riddick Consumer Strategies.

Economy: The weekly report on initial jobless claims was higher than expected. The government announced that the number of people claiming unemployment benefits for the first time totaled 465,000 in the week ended Sept. 18. This is higher than the 450,000 claims expected by a consensus of economists surveyed by Briefing.com.

Investors will also be watching for a report on existing home sales, which is due to be released at 10 a.m. ET. Sales are expected to have risen to 4.1 million units in August, according to an economist consensus forecast from Briefing.com.

At that same time, a report on leading indicators is expected to show the index increasing by 0.1% for August

Companies: Blockbuster filed for its much-anticipated bankruptcy as it tries to recover from nearly $1 billion of debt. Blockbuster has struggled for survival ever since media conglomerate Viacom (VIA) spun off the company in 2004.

McDonald's (MCD, Fortune 500) board of directors announced an 11% gain to its dividend, or 61 cents per share for the fourth quarter. This is equal to $2.44 per share annually. The announcement had little effect on premarket trading.

Starbucks (SBUX, Fortune 500) said late Wednesday that it was hiking the price of its "labor-intensive" drinks because of rising coffee bean prices.

World markets: European shares fell in midday trading. Britain's FTSE 100 and Germany's DAX each lost about 1% and France's CAC 40 fell 1.4%.

Stock markets in Japan, Hong Kong and China were closed.

Currencies and commodities: The dollar rose against the euro, and slipped versus the British pound and Japanese yen.

Gold futures, which closed at a record high Wednesday, were nearly unchanged. Gold for December delivery was trading at $1,292.20 an ounce.

Oil prices for November delivery fell 90 cents to $73.81 a barrel.

Bonds: The price on the 10-year Treasury note was higher, pushing down the yield to 2.51% from 2.56% late Wednesday. To top of page

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