U.S. stock futures were slightly lower on the final day of what's been a strong month for the market.
The Dow is up more than 6% so far in January, while the S&P 500 has climbed 5% and the Nasdaq is up 4%. The Dow is just 2% away from its record high, hit in October 2007, while the S&P 500 is about 5% away from its record high, also reached in October 2007.
But those highs may get a bit further away, as a jump in initial jobless claims following two weeks of declines put investors on edge. Claims rose 38,000 to 368,000 in the latest week. Analysts were expecting 345,000 claims.
Separately, outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas reported the number of planned job cuts surged 24% to 40,430 in January.
Those figures are worrying ahead of the all-important monthly jobs report due Friday. Analysts are expecting that employers added 180,000 jobs in January, and that the unemployment rate ticked down to 7.7% from 7.8% in December.
On the positive side, personal income rose 2.6% in December, and spending inched up 0.2%.
In corporate news, shares of UPS (Fortune 500) declined in premarket trading after the shipping giant's fourth-quarter earnings came in below of forecasts. The company's guidance for 2013 was also weaker-than-expected. ,
Shares of Dow Chemical (Fortune 500) also declined on an earnings miss. ,
Facebook ( shares dropped 6% in premarket trading, after the firm said its fourth-quarter )mobile user growth had slowed slightly versus the third quarter. Facebook's fourth-quarter earnings and sales beat Wall Street estimates.
U.S. stocks finished lower Wednesday after the Federal Reserve said economic growth had paused. The Fed announcement came after a government report released earlier in the day showed the U.S. economy contracted during the fourth quarter of 2012.
Analysts expressed surprise at the fourth-quarter GDP data, but said it was likely an exaggeration of the economy's weakness.
European markets were lower in afternoon trading as weak corporate earnings weighed on sentiment. Results from oil major Shell and drinks group Diageo ( missed expectations, while )Deutsche Bank ( posted a $3.5 billion quarterly loss on legal and restructuring charges. Telecoms equipment maker Ericsson bucked the trend, posting strong gains after beating expectations. )
Asian markets ended mixed, with the Hang Seng slipping 0.4%.
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