* S&P 500 down 5.1 percent over the last six sessions
* Wal-Mart falls after results, Target edges higher
* Jobless claims spike, investors see impact of storm
* Dow down 25 pts, S&P down 1.8 pt, Nasdaq up 5.75 pts
By Ryan Vlastelica
NEW YORK, Nov 15 U.S. stock index futures
pointed to a flat open on Thursday, with investors finding few
reasons to buy after weak results from Wal-Mart Stores Inc and
rising tensions in the Middle East.
Futures were off their highs of the session, continuing a
trend of equities having difficulty holding onto gains.
Wal-Mart fell 2.9 percent to $69.25 in premarket
trading after reporting third-quarter revenue that missed
expectations. The company said economic conditions pressured
"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 at Fort Pitt Capital
Group in Pittsburgh. "There's not much out there convincing
investors that things are getting any better."
Discount retailer Target Corp rose 1 percent to $62
before the bell after it reported profit that beat expectations.
Futures fell on economic data, which showed a spike in
weekly jobless benefits claims, though consumer prices came in
as expected with a 0.1 percent increase. The government said
claims totaled 439,000 compared with expectations of 375,000 and
reflected the impact of superstorm Sandy.
A regional gauge of manufacturing in New York state slowed
for a fourth straight month in November but was stronger than
S&P 500 futures fell 1.8 points and were below 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 5.75 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 several global macroeconomic headwinds go away.
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
"Nothing over there seems 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.
President Barack Obama Wednesday reiterated his position
that marginal tax rates would have to rise to tackle U.S.
deficits. Taxes on capital gains and dividends could rise as
part of the negotiations, pushing investors to sell this year
and pay lower taxes on their gains.