Stocks headed lower at the open

By staff

NEW YORK( -- U.S. stocks were poised for a lackluster start Thursday, as investors digested the latest round of earnings, mixed economic news and a renewed push for financial reform.

Dow Jones industrial average, S&P 500 and Nasdaq 100 futures were lower ahead of the opening bell.

Futures measure current index values against perceived future performance and offer an indication of how markets may open when trading begins.

U.S. stocks finished Wednesday's session mixed. Strong earnings have helped boost sentiment recently, although investors still remain wary about the economic recovery.

Corporate results: Microsoft (MSFT, Fortune 500) and (AMZN, Fortune 500) are among the companies due to report quarterly results after the closing bell. American Express (AXP, Fortune 500) will also post Thursday afternoon.

Starbucks (SBUX, Fortune 500) reported a jump in quarterly profit and raised its outlook for the year after U.S. markets closed Wednesday. The coffee retailer's results topped Wall Street's estimates.

Wall Street reform: President Obama will make another push for tougher financial rules Wednesday. He is due to give a speech near the heart of Wall Street.

Economy: The government released reports on first-time claims for unemployment benefits, and inflation at the wholesale level before the market opened.

There were a total of 456,000 initial jobless claims filed in the week ended April 17, down from the previous week's revised figure of 480,000, according to the Labor Department's weekly report.

The report was roughly in line with expectations and marked the first time in three weeks that claims declined. Economists surveyed by had anticipated 455,000 initial claims.

Separately, government figures showed inflation at the wholesale level rose more than expected in March. The Producer Price Index increased 0.7% last month after falling 0.6% in February. Economists were expecting a 0.5% rise in March.

Still to come, the National Association of Realtors is expected to report that existing home sales rose to a 5.3 million unit annualized rate from a 5.02 million unit rate in February, according to economists' forecasts. The report is due at 10 a.m. ET.

World markets: European markets fell in active trading. Shares in London, Paris and Frankfurt all lost about 1%.

Stocks in Asia pulled back. Japan's Nikkei fell 1.3%, the Shanghai Composite shed 1.1% and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong dipped 0.3%.

Other markets: The dollar rose versus the euro and the pound, but gained ground against the yen.

The price of oil fell $1.10 to $82.58 a barrel. Gold prices fell $8.30 to $1,140.40 an ounce.

Bond prices edged higher. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury bond was 3.74%. To top of page

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