* Facebook slumps in premarket after earnings
* Initial jobless claims climb, Chicago PMI on tap
* Futures off: Dow 2 pts, S&P off 0.4 pt, Nasdaq off 9.25
By Chuck Mikolajczak
NEW YORK, Jan 31 U.S. stocks were poised for a
modestly lower open on Thursday as economic data continued to
paint a mixed picture of the economy and as investors sifted
through a host of corporate earnings reports.
Data showed the number of Americans filing new claims for
unemployment benefits increased to 368,000 last week, bouncing
off five-year lows in the prior week and exceeding an estimated
350,000, pointing to modest improvement in the labor market.
The claims data comes ahead of Friday's payrolls report,
which is expected to show employers added 160,000 jobs in
January after an increase of 155,000 in December.
A separate report showed incomes rose by 2.6 percent in
December, the most in eight years, in a positive sign that could
propel the economy forward.
Facebook Inc shares lost 6.4 percent to $29.23 in
premarket trading. The company doubled its mobile advertising
revenue in the fourth quarter but that growth trailed some of
Wall Street's most aggressive estimates.
The S&P 500 is up 5.3 percent for the month, after
legislators in Washington temporarily sidestepped a "fiscal
cliff" of automatic tax increases and spending cuts that could
have derailed the economic recovery, and amid improving economic
data and better-than-expected corporate earnings.
But the benchmark index has stalled recently and is
virtually flat for the week, hovering near the 1,500 mark, as
investors look for more catalysts to justify further gains.
"Unfortunately it's still a mixed picture, it appears we are
just getting a lot of conflicting data right now," said Jack
Ablin, chief investment officer at BMO Private Bank in Chicago.
"There is certainly a lot of information coming out this
week - a lot of economic data, a lot of earnings and of course
we have the employment number looming Friday, so with 1,500
right here, my guess is there is just not enough conviction to
push us substantially higher yet."
United Parcel Service Inc lost 1.8 percent to $79.75
in premarket trading after the world's largest parcel delivery
reported fourth-quarter earnings below analysts' estimates on
Thursday and forecast weaker-than-expected profit for 2013.
S&P 500 futures fell 0.4 point and were slightly
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 dipped
2 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures lost 9.25 points.
Later in the session at 9:45 a.m. (1445 GMT), the Institute
for Supply Management Chicago releases January index of
manufacturing activity. Economists in a Reuters survey forecast
a reading of 50.5 compared with 50.0 in December.
Qualcomm Inc gained 6.5 percent to $67.66 in
premarket trading after the world's leading supplier of chips
for cellphones beat analysts' expectations for quarterly profit
and revenue and raised its financial targets for
Thomson Reuters data through Wednesday morning shows that of
the 192 companies in the S&P 500 that have reported earnings
this season, 68.8 percent have exceeded expectations, a higher
proportion than over the past four quarters and above the
average since 1994.
Overall, S&P 500 fourth-quarter earnings are forecast to
have risen 3.8 percent. That's above the 1.9 percent forecast
from the start of the earnings season, but well below a 9.9
percent fourth-quarter earnings growth forecast on Oct. 1, the
WMS Industries Inc surged 55.7 percent to $25.48 in
premarket after the company agreed to be acquired by Scientific
Games Corp for $26 per share in cash. Scientific Games
advanced 15.9 percent to $10.35.