U.S. stocks were indicated to open higher Thursday as index futures rose in premarket trading. Traders weighed a report on weekly initial jobless claims, which were unchanged at 627,000; however, continuing claims rose to a record 4,987,000. Also, the January producer price index rose 0.8%, while the core rate, which excludes food and energy prices, rose 0.4%.
The market was awaiting the release of the Philadelphia Fed's manufacturing index for February, which was expected to rise to -23.0 from -24.3 the month before.
Treasuries were plunging, as was the dollar index. Gold futures were off. Oil futures were up before the Energy Dept.'s weekly inventory report.
On Wednesday, the 30-stock Dow Jones industrial average finished higher by 3.03 points, or 0.04%, at 7,555.63. The broad S&P 500 index fell 0.75 points, or 0.10%, to 788.42. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index declined 2.69 points, or 0.18%, to 1,467.97.
In economic news Thursday, the U.S. producer price index (PPI) rose 0.8% in January after a 1.9% drop in December, while the core rate, excluding food and fuel, jumped 0.4% from a 0.2% pace the month before. Both were much stronger than the 0.3% and 0.1% increases expected, respectively. While higher energy prices suggested a rise in headline producer prices, the big bounce in the core rate was a surprise. Energy prices rose 3.7% following a 9.3% drop in December. Consumer goods prices rose 1.0% after falling 2.6% the month before. Food prices fell 0.4% following a 1.5% decline in December.
While the inflation jump may help reduce deflation risks, a continued moderation in core inflation remains likely in 2009, according to S&P senior economist Beth Ann Bovino.
U.S. jobless claims were unchanged at 627,000 for the week ended Feb. 14, from a previous 623,000 print. Continuing claims were up 170,000 to 4,987,000 in the week ended Feb. 7, from a revised from 4,817,000 (previously 4,810,000), and are again the highest on record. The 4-week moving average rose to 619,000 from 608,500. Overall, the claims were about as-expected, though still showing distress in the jobs market, according to Action Economics.
Among companies in the news Thursday, Hewlett-Packard Co. (HPQ) posted $0.93 vs. $0.86 first-quarter non-GAAP EPS on a 1% revenue rise (+4% when adjusted for forex impact). The company sees a second-quarter revenue decline of 2%-3%, with non-GAAP EPS of $0.84-$0.86, and a fiscal 2009 revenue decline of 2%-5%, with non-GAAP EPS of $3.76-$3.88.
CBS Corp. (CBS) posted $0.20 vs. $0.43 fourth-quarter EPS on a 6.1% revenue decline. The company cut its quarterly dividend to $0.05 from $0.27. CBS's CEO called the dividend cut "wise and prudent."
Priceline.com (PCLN) posted $1.29 vs. $0.96 fourth-quarter pro forma EPS on a 21% revenue rise. The company sees a first-quarter year-over-year increase in gross travel bookings of flat to 7.5%, a 5%-10% revenue rise, and $0.85-$0.95 pro forma EPS.
Whole Foods Market (WFMI) posted better-than-expected $0.20 vs. $0.28 first-quarter EPS on 4% lower same-store sales and flat total sales. The company sees fiscal 2009 EPS of $0.71-$0.76, based on an assumption of flat same-store sales. Wall Street is looking for EPS of $0.66.
The market-research firm NPD Group said Apple Inc.'s (AAPL) unit sales of computers through U.S. retail channels fell 6% in January from the same month in 2008, the first monthly decline in three years, according to a Wall Street Journal report.