NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- U.S. stocks were poised for a choppy open Thursday, as optimism from Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke's comments is countered by nervousness by the latest jobs report and a weak Italian bond auction.
The Dow Jones industrial average (), S&P 500 ( ) and Nasdaq ( ) futures were slightly lower. Stock futures indicate the possible direction of the markets when they open at 9:30 a.m. ET.
"It's presumably a reflection of the turnaround that we've seen in Europe this morning," said Brian Barry, analyst for Investec Bank in London.
Barry said that markets on both sides of the Atlantic lost their enthusiasm following an Italian auction of short-term bills.
The Italian government auctioned €8.5 billion worth of 6-month notes at a yield of 1.77%. That's 60 basis points higher than last month's auction, signaling weaker demand since yields and prices move in opposite direction. The yield on Italian 10-year bonds has been hovering around 6% for the past week or so.
Meanwhile, investors were underwhelmed by a glimpse at the strength of the job market, which showed that the number of Americans filing for unemployment dipped slightly but missed expectations.
Companies continue to release quarterly results, with a number of heavy hitters reporting first-quarter data before the opening bell, including Pepsi (Fortune 500), Exxon Mobil ( , Fortune 500) and UPS ( , Fortune 500). Amazon ( , Fortune 500) and Starbucks ( , Fortune 500) will release results after the market closes.,
U.S. stocks finished higher Wednesday on news that the Federal Reserve boosted its economic growth projection and improved its outlook. A jump in Boeing ( , Fortune 500) shares pushed up the Dow, while Apple's ( , Fortune 500) earnings propelled the Nasdaq and S&P.
World markets: European stocks were mixed in afternoon trading. Britain's FTSE 100 ( ) was flat, while the DAX ( ) in Germany slid 0.4% and France's CAC 40 ( ) fell 0.9%.
Asian markets ended mixed. The Shanghai Composite () finished slightly in the red, while the Hang Seng ( ) in Hong Kong added 0.8% and Japan's Nikkei ( ) ended just above breakeven.
Economy: The number of people filing for first-time unemployment benefits dipped 1,000 to 388,000 in the most recent week, according to the Labor Department's weekly initial claims report.
The jobless claims number fell to four-year lows a few months ago, but has been climbing recently. Economists surveyed by Briefing.com had expected the report to show that 365,000 people filed for their first week of jobless claims last week, down from 386,000 the week before.
On tap for later Thursday is the monthly report on pending home sales, which is scheduled for release at 10 a.m. ET. Pending home sales are expected to have risen 0.5% in March, according to a consensus of analysts surveyed by Briefing.com.
Exxon Mobil reported earnings of $2 per share, below expectations of $2.09. The nation's No. 1 oil company generated $9.45 billion in profits the quarter, compared to $10.65 billion a year earlier. In anticipation of its profits, the oil industry went on the offensive, saying that 1 in 10 U.S. jobs created in 2011 were from Big Oil.
Shares of H&R Block (tax preparer said that it would cut 350 full-time jobs nationwide and close 200 "underperforming" offices. The move should save H&R Block between $85 million to $100 million annually by the end of fiscal year 2013.) plunged in premarket trading, a day after the
Pepsi's stock edged higher after the company reported earnings of 69 cents per share and net revenue of more than $12.4 billion, beating expectations.
UPS is expected to post earnings of $1.02 per share on $13.2 billion in revenue.
Amazon and Starbucks will release their earnings after the bell. Analysts predict Amazon will post earnings of 7 cents a share, an 84% drop from a year earlier, on revenue of $12.9 billion. Meanwhile, Starbucks is expected to report earnings of 39 cents per share on revenue of $3.1 billion.
Oil for June delivery slipped 11 cents to $104.01 a barrel.
Gold futures for June delivery rose $8.40 to $1,650.70 an ounce.
Bonds: The price on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury rose, pushing the yield down slightly to 1.97% from 1.98% late Wednesday.
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