Stocks: All eyes on job market

June 2, 2011: 8:51 AM ET

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NEW YORK(CNNMoney) -- U.S. stock futures pointed to a muted open Thursday, following one of the worst sessions of the year, as investors remained on edge ahead of the highly-anticipated May jobs report due Friday.

Dow Jones industrial average (INDU) futures were up about 0.1%, while S&P 500 (SPX) and Nasdaq (COMP) futures rose about 0.3% ahead of the opening bell. Futures measure current index values against perceived future performance.

Stocks fell sharply Wednesday, with the Dow and S&P 500 posting their steepest losses in nearly a year, following weak reports on jobs and manufacturing. A late downgrade on Greece's debt added to the rout.

Signs of a stalling recovery have been building, with stocks delivering their worst monthly performance in May since August 2010. But all three indexes are still up for the year so, while the daily gyrations may cause investors some nausea, the trend is still higher.

Investors took another glimpse into the health of the job market before the opening bell Thursday.

Weekly jobless claims fell by 6,000 to 422,000 in the latest week. While investors welcomed the slight dip in unemployment claims, the figure was not as low as economists were hoping for -- and it remained above the key level of 400,000 for the eighth straight week.

"Jobless claims have taken a lot more meaning over the last several weeks since they've been hovering about the 400,000 mark," said Mark Luschini, chief investment strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott.

Luschini added that the the recent week's figure is even more important in light of Wednesday's "shockingly weak" private sector jobs report, which comes ahead of the government's key monthly jobs report due Friday.

Economic 'malaise' takes root

A CNNMoney survey of 26 economists expect a total gain of 170,000 jobs, and a private sector gain of 190,000; with the unemployment rate edging down to 8.9%.

Economy: The Labor Department said productivity rose 1.8% during the first quarter, slightly above economists' expectations.

Companies: Shares of for-profit education stocks jumped in premarket trading after the Department of Education issued its final rules that aim to halt federal aid to schools whose graduates cannot earn enough to repay their loans.

For-profit colleges face tougher funding standards

Shares of Corinthian Colleges (COCO) spiked 27%, while shares of Apollo Group (APOL, Fortune 500) rose 12%. Bridgepoint Education's (BPI) stock edged up 10%.

Investors will also keep on eye on major retailers including Target (TGT, Fortune 500), Gap (GPS, Fortune 500), Costco (COST, Fortune 500) and BJ's Wholesale (BJ, Fortune 500), as they release same-store sales data for May.

World markets: Global market were under pressure following Wall Street's deep losses on Wednesday, and as investors digested yet another downgrade on Greece debt.

In afternoon trading, Britain's FTSE 100 dropped 0.9%, while the DAX in Germany and France's CAC 40 tumbled more than 1%.

Asian markets also ended the session in the red. The Shanghai Composite lost 1.4%, the Hang Seng in Hong Kong declined 1.6%, and Japan's Nikkei sank 1.7%.

Japan's market was under pressure amid domestic political turmoil. Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan survived a no-confidence vote in Parliament Thursday, by promising he will resign after the country's nuclear crisis is under control.

Currencies and commodities: The dollar fell 1% against the euro. The greenback was also lower versus the Japanese yen and the British pound.

Check the price of gas in your state

Oil for July fell slightly to hover around $100 a barrel. AAA reported Thursday morning that gas prices rose to $3.784 per gallon, following 20 consecutive decreases.

Gold futures for August delivery decreased $2.30 to $1,540.90 an ounce.

Bonds: The price on the 10-year U.S. Treasury fell slightly, pushing the yield up to 2.96%. The benchmark yield fell below 3% Wednesday for the first time since December. To top of page

Index Last Change % Change
Dow 32,627.97 -234.33 -0.71%
Nasdaq 13,215.24 99.07 0.76%
S&P 500 3,913.10 -2.36 -0.06%
Treasuries 1.73 0.00 0.12%
Data as of 6:29am ET
Company Price Change % Change
Ford Motor Co 8.29 0.05 0.61%
Advanced Micro Devic... 54.59 0.70 1.30%
Cisco Systems Inc 47.49 -2.44 -4.89%
General Electric Co 13.00 -0.16 -1.22%
Kraft Heinz Co 27.84 -2.20 -7.32%
Data as of 2:44pm ET
Overnight Avg Rate Latest Change Last Week
30 yr fixed3.80%3.88%
15 yr fixed3.20%3.23%
5/1 ARM3.84%3.88%
30 yr refi3.82%3.93%
15 yr refi3.20%3.23%
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