* S&P 500 falls 5.1 percent over the last six sessions
* Wal-Mart falls after results, Target edges higher
* Weekly jobless claims, October CPI data both on tap
* Dow down 25 pts, S&P flat, Nasdaq up 2.25 pts
By Ryan Vlastelica
NEW YORK, Nov 15 U.S. stock index futures were
flat on Thursday, with investors again finding few reasons to
buy amid weak results from retail giant Wal-Mart and tensions in
the Middle East.
Futures were off their highs of the session, continuing a
trend of equities having difficulty holding onto gains. Futures
had also indicated gains Wednesday morning, but stocks turned
lower midday and ended down more than 1 percent.
Eroding gains in Dow futures, Wal-Mart Stores fell
3. 2 percent to $69 in premarket trading after reporting
third-quarter revenue that missed expectations and saying
macroeconomic conditions continued to pressure its customers.
"This is troubling because it flies in the face of other
retail data we've seen lately, which has been positive," said
Kim Forrest, senior equity research analyst, Fort Pitt Capital
Group in Pittsburgh. "There's not much out there convincing
investors that things are getting any better."
Target Corp eased back to $61. 36 before the bell
e ven as the company reported higher quarterly profit.
Overseas, Israel launched a major offensive against
Palestinian militants in Gaza, killing the military commander of
Hamas in an air strike and threatening an invasion of the
enclave. Egypt said it recalled its ambassador from Israel in
Crude oil may be the most directly impacted by the tensions
in the region, with any disruption to oil supply leaving crude
vulnerable to a spike in prices. Brent crude rose 1
percent and is up 4.7 percent over the past two weeks.
"Nothing over there seem stable, and investors are concerned
other countries could be pulled into the conflict. You're going
to see oil jump on that threat," Forest said.
S&P 500 futures were flat but still slightly above
fair value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into
account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the
contract. Dow Jones industrial average futures fell 25
points and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 2.75 points.
With Wednesday's drop, both the Dow and Nasdaq ended at
their lowest levels since late June. The S&P 500 is down 5.1
percent in the six sessions since election night. Wednesday
marked the benchmark index's lowest close since July 25.
Investors may seek bargains at these levels, and a round of
stronger economic data could prove to be a catalyst, but many
analysts say strong gains may be hard to come by until at least
one of the many global macroeconomic headwinds have been
"There's all this uncertainty out there, and the market is
unbalanced because those who want to buy can be very
discriminate about the price they want to buy at," Forest said.
The market will also watch the latest economic data, with
weekly jobless claims, October consumer prices and a November
read on New York manufacturing all due out at 8:30 a.m. (1330
GMT). The Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank releases its
November business activity survey at 10 a.m.
Claims are seen rising by 20,000 to 375,000 while consumer
prices are seen up 0.1 percent, compared with a 0.6 percent rise
in September, according to a Reuters poll. The Empire State
manufacturing survey is seen coming in at -6.7, compared with
-6.16 in October. The Philly Fed survey is seen dropping to 2
from 5.7 in October.
While the President and Congress are unlikely to reach a
definitive agreement for weeks, investors will continue to
monitor the situation regarding the fiscal cliff, a series of
mandated tax increases and spending cuts will start to take
effect early next year that could push the U.S. economy into a
President Barack Obama Wednesday reiterated his position
that marginal tax rates would have to rise to tackle the
nation's deficits. Taxes on capital gains and dividends also
could rise as part of the negotiations, pushing investors to
sell this year and pay lower taxes on their gains.