Stocks ease back from record highs

u.s. stocks, sp500 futures
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The September rally may lose some steam after recent gains have pushed major indexes close to record levels.

U.S. stock futures were little changed Thursday.

On the economic front, the government's weekly report showed that first-time claims for unemployment benefits dropped sharply to 292,000 -- their lowest level since early 2006. But the Labor Department noted that two states did not report complete data last week, which skewed the total figure.

In corporate news, yoga-wear producer lululemon (LULU) announced a jump in quarterly sales and profit, but shares plunged in premarket trading as the company lowered its guidance for the year.

Shares in Men's Wearhouse (MW) sank 15% after the company reported disappointing quarterly earnings on Wednesday. Vera Bradley (VRA) shares tumbled 10% after the handbag producer offered weak guidance.

On the bright side, shares of grocery chain Kroger (KR) moved higher on better-than-expected earnings and sales.

Facebook (FB) shares were poised to open at a fresh all-time high Thursday, a day after topping $45 for the first time since its first day of turbulent trading on May 18, 2012. Speaking at the TechCrunch Disrupt Wednesday evening, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the company is better off for having gone through its rocky IPO.

Shares of Apple (AAPL) were up modestly in pre-market trading. Late Wednesday, billionaire investor Carl Icahn said boosted his stake in Apple as shares of the company tumbled more than 5% due to disappointment with the two new iPhones.

Related: Fear & Greed Index idling in neutral

Investors continue to remain wary about the U.S. Federal Reserve, which could decide to cut back on its quantitative easing program this month. The Fed has previously indicated that it was considering scaling back on this massive, liquidity-boosting program, which has supported a big rally in stock markets around the world.

Meanwhile, Mike van Dulken, the head of research at Accendo Markets in London said investors are still looking for some excuses to buy. He said the easing tension in Syria just may be that catalyst.

The threat of U.S.-led military strikes against Syria has created a lot of volatility in global markets, though it's looking increasingly likely that a diplomatic resolution may be found.

Related: Facebook shares finally top $45

U.S. stocks finished mixed Wednesday. The S&P 500 moved slightly higher, while a sharp drop in Apple (AAPL) shares pushed the tech-heavy Nasdaq into the red.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average added more than 130 points, helped by a big jump from IBM (IBM), the most heavily weighted stock in the index.

European indexes were mixed in afternoon trading. Asian markets also had a mixed day, with stocks in China edging up while Japan's Nikkei posted a small decline.

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