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U.S. futures lower ahead of jobless data; Dow Jones down 0.49%

Stock MarketsMar 22, 2012 08:12AM ET
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This article has already been saved in your Saved Items - U.S. stock futures were lower on Thursday, as downbeat Chinese and euro zone economic data weighed on sentiment while investors eyed a U.S. report on unemployment claims with hopes it will confirm a recovery of the domestic economy.

Ahead of the open, the Dow Jones Industrial Average futures pointed to a fall of 0.49%, S&P 500 futures signaled a 0.60% decline, while the Nasdaq 100 futures indicated a 0.50% loss.

Preliminary data showed earlier that manufacturing activity in the euro zone slumped unexpectedly in March, remaining in contraction territory for the eighth consecutive month, sparking concerns that the region’s economy is sliding back into a recession.

Service sector activity in the euro zone declined to the lowest level in four months in March.

The data came after a report showing that Chinese manufacturing activity contracted for a fifth consecutive month, underlining concerns over a possible slowdown in growth in the world’s second largest economy.

Energy stocks were expected to move lower following the weak data and after France said industrialized nations are considering a release from strategic stockpiles. Exxon Mobil saw shares drop 0.58% in pre-market trade, while Chevron fell 0.47%.

Meanwhile, copper producer Freeport-McMoRan was down 1.33% amid concern that a manufacturing contraction in China will erode demand for the base metal. Alcoa, the biggest maker of aluminum in the U.S., also lost 1.07% in pre-market trade.

Financial stocks were also slated to be active as euro zone lenders moved broadly lower. Bank of America shares tumbled 1.02% and Citigroup plunged 1.22% in pre-market trade.

Discover Financial Services also lost 1.11% although it posted better-than-expected quarterly profit for the eighth straight quarter, as more Americans used its credit cards, and the company said it was speeding up its expansion into international markets.

Elsewhere, McDonald's Corp's was expected to be in focus as the company’s chief executive Jim Skinner, who took the top post at the world's biggest hamburger chain after the abrupt departures of two predecessors, announced his retirement after more than seven years at the helm.

Also in company news, Japan's NEC Corp said it would buy U.S. telecoms firm Convergys Corp's business support operations, which span billing and client support services, for USD450 million, as it hunts for new telecom equipment sales abroad. Shares in Covergys were up 0.31% in pre-market trade.

Across the Atlantic, European stock markets were sharply lower. The EURO STOXX 50 plummeted 1.60%, France’s CAC 40 plunged 1.67%, Germany's DAX tumbled 1.50%, while Britain's FTSE 100 dropped 0.86%.

During the Asian trading session, Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index edged up 0.2%, while Japan’s Nikkei 225 Index rose 0.4%.

Later in the day, the U.S. was to publish official data on initial jobless claims, while Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke was to speak.

U.S. futures lower ahead of jobless data; Dow Jones down 0.49%

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