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U.S. Stocks May Open Lower On Disappointing Walmart Earnings, Jobless Claims Data

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Following the mixed performances seen in the two previous sessions, stocks may move to the downside in early trading on Thursday. The major index futures are currently pointing to a lower open for the markets, with the Dow futures down by 176 points.

A negative reaction to earnings news from Walmart (WMT) may weigh on Wall Street, with the retail giant plunging by 5.6 percent in pre-market trading.

The steep drop by Walmart comes after the company reported weaker than expected fourth quarter earnings and warned of slowing sales growth in the coming year.

Negative sentiment may also be generated in reaction to a report from the Labor Department showing initial jobless claims came in well above economist estimates in the week ended February 13th, with claims rising from a significantly upwardly revised level.

The report said initial jobless claims edged up to 861,000, an increase of 13,000 from the previous week's revised level of 848,000.

Economists had expected jobless claims to dip to 765,000 from the 793,000 originally reported for the previous week.

However, traders have often looked at recent disappointing jobs data in a positive light, believing that it will put more pressure on lawmakers to pass additional stimulus.

A separate report from the Commerce Department showed housing starts pulled back by much more than expected in the month of January.

The Commerce Department said housing starts tumbled by 6.0 percent to an annual rate of 1.580 million in January from a revised December estimate of 1.680 million.

Economists had expected housing stocks to decrease by 0.7 percent to a rate of 1.658 million from the 1.669 million originally reported for the previous month.

Meanwhile, the report also said building permits spiked by 10.4 percent to an annual rate of 1.881 million in January from the revised December rate of 1.704 million.

Building permits, an indicator of future housing demand, had been expected to slump by 1.8 percent to a rate of 1.678 million from the 1.709 million originally reported for the previous month.

The Labor Department also released a report showing a bigger than expected jump in import prices, which may add to recent inflation concerns.

After coming under pressure early in the session, stocks regained some ground over the course of the trading day on Wednesday. The Dow climbed to a new record closing high, while the tech-heavy remained stuck in negative territory.

The Dow closed higher for the tenth time in the past twelve sessions, rising 90.27 points or 0.3 percent to 31,613.02. Meanwhile, the Nasdaq fell 82.00 points or 0.6 percent to 13,965.50 and the S&P 500 edged down 1.26 points or less than tenth of a percent to 3,931.33.

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region moved mostly lower during trading on Thursday. Japan's Nikkei 225 Index dipped by 0.2 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index tumbled by 1.6 percent.

Most European stocks have also moved to the downside on the day. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index has plunged by 1.3 percent, the French CAC 40 Index is down by 0.5 percent and the German DAX Index is nearly unchanged.

In commodities trading, crude oil futures are climbing $0.51 to $61.65 a barrel after jumping $1.09 to $61.14 a barrel on Wednesday. Meanwhile, after plunging $26.20 to $1,772.80 an ounce in the previous session, gold futures are rising $9.70 to $1,782.50 an ounce.

On the currency front, the U.S. dollar is trading at 105.61 yen versus the 105.87 yen it fetched at the close of New York trading on Wednesday. Against the euro, the dollar is valued at $1.2084 compared to yesterday's $1.2038.

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