With traders digesting another mixed batch of U.S. economic data, stocks could turn in yet another lackluster performance during trading on Thursday. The major index futures are currently pointing to a modestly higher open for the markets, with the Dow futures up by 26 points.
While the Commerce Department recently released a report showing a bigger than expected decrease in housing starts in the month of July, the report also showed a substantial increase in building permits, which are seen as an indicator of future housing activity.
The report showed that housing starts fell 1.1 percent to an annual rate of 746,000 in July from the revised June estimate of 754,000. Economists had expected housing starts to dip to 750,000 from the 760,000 originally reported for the previous month.
At the same time, the Commerce Department said building permits surged up by 6.8 percent to an annual rate of 812,000 in July from the revised June rate of 760,000. Building permits had been expected to climb to 766,000.
A separate report from the Labor Department showed that initial jobless claims came in slightly higher than anticipated in the week ended August 11th, although claims appear to have stabilized following recent volatility.
The report showed that initial jobless claims crept up to 366,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 364,000. Economists had expected jobless claims to climb to 365,000 from the 361,000 originally reported for the previous week.
A mixed reaction to quarterly results from Cisco Systems (CSCO: Quote) and Wal-Mart (WMT: Quote) could also lead to choppy trading on Wall Street.
Shares of Cisco are likely to move sharply higher in early trading after the networking giant reported better than expected fourth quarter adjusted earnings. The company also announced a 75 percent increase in its quarterly dividend to $0.14 per share.
Meanwhile, retail giant Wal-Mart may come under pressure after reporting second quarter earnings that exceeded analyst estimates but on weaker than expected revenues. Looking ahead, the company raised its full-year earnings guidance.
Stocks turned in yet another lackluster performance during trading on Wednesday, extending the sideways move seen over the past week. Traders expressed continued uncertainty about the near-term outlook for the markets following the release of a mixed batch of U.S. economic data.
The major averages eventually ended the session mixed for the fifth time in the past six sessions. While the Dow edged down 7.36 points or 0.1 percent to 13,164.78, the Nasdaq rose 13.95 points or 0.5 percent to 3,030.93 and the S&P 500 inched up 1.60 points or 0.1 percent to 1,405.53.
In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region turned in a mixed performance on Thursday. Japan's Nikkei 225 Index surged up by 1.9 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index ended the day down by 0.5 percent.
The major European markets have also turned mixed on the day. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index is down by 0.2 percent, the French CAC 40 Index has edged up by 0.1 percent and the German DAX Index has risen by 0.3 percent.
In commodities trading, crude oil futures are climbing $0.39 to $94.72 a barrel after advancing $0.90 to $94.33 a barrel on Wednesday. Gold futures, which rose $4.20 to $1,606.60 an ounce in the previous session, are up $3.90 at $1,610.50 an ounce.
Among currencies, the U.S. dollar is trading at 79.25 yen compared to the 78.99 yen it fetched at the close of New York trading on Wednesday. Against the euro, the dollar is valued at $1.2322 compared to yesterday's $1.2290.
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by RTT Staff Writer
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