By Sara Sjolin, MarketWatch
LONDON (MarketWatch) -- U.S. stock futures pointed to a mildly lower open on Wall Street on Thursday ahead of the latest data on weekly jobless claims, while Apple Inc. inched higher in premarket trade after Carl Icahn said he remains bullish on the iPhone maker.
Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJU3) fell 19 points, or 0.1%, to 15,311. Those for the S&P 500 index (SPU3) lost 3.30 points, or 0.2%, to 1,685.50, while futures for the Nasdaq 100 index (NDU3) gave up 4 points, or 0.1%, to 3,174.50.
"As we move towards the weekend break, markets remain in a relatively quiet mood. It's been a mixed session for equities in Asia, although USD/JPY has once again dropped back below the 100 level," analysts at Monex Capital Markets said in a note.
"With the uncertainty that's hanging over the Syrian situation right now -- plus the fact that the Fed may start to wind down the party with the tapering of QE starting as soon as next week -- it's perhaps understandable that traders are feeling cautious, and with no fresh data around to provide any meaningful direction, the air of caution could well continue to build," they added.
Uncertainty over whether the U.S. will launch a military attack on Syria has kept investors on edge recently, but tensions receded this week. On Thursday, Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov meet in Geneva to discuss how to handle Syria's chemical weapons. Earlier in the week, Syria accepted a Russian proposal to give up its chemical arms to the international community to avert a U.S. military attack, with President Barack Obama subsequently asking Congress to delay a vote on an intervention.
On Wednesday, Nasdaq was the only major index to close in negative territory as Apple shares (AAPL) dragged the benchmark lower. Shares of the tech giant lost 5.4% as concerns about the pricing of the lower-end iPhone 5C continued to weigh on investors' minds.
Apple shares, however, looked set to rebound on Thursday, trading up 0.4% in premarket action. Billionaire investor Carl Icahn said Wednesday on CNBC that investing in Apple is a "no-brainer", adding that he remains bullish on the company. He also said he has purchased Apple shares in recent days because they're cheap right now.
For the broader U.S. markets, the Thursday, with only weekly jobless claims likely to get much attention. For the first week of September, claims are forecast to edge up to 330,000 from 323,000, according to economists polled by MarketWatch. The report will be released by the Labor Department at 8:30 a.m. Eastern Time.
The number of Americans filing new applications for unemployment benefits each week has recently fallen to levels last seen in early 2007, shortly before a seemingly healthy U.S. economy went into a tailspin.
The Federal Reserve has said it is looking to macroeconomic data, including jobs numbers, to determine when to start tapering its $85-billion-a-month asset purchases, prompting investors to scrutinize figures coming out of the U.S. Analysts speculate that a recent run of solid data could trigger the Fed to start scaling back its easing program after its September meeting next week.
In other financial markets, European stocks mostly traded lower, with the benchmark index falling from a more than five-year high. Asia stocks closed mixed, while the dollar inched higher. Metals prices dropped across the board and oil prices inched higher.
-Sara Sjolin; 415-439-6400; AskNewswires@dowjones.com
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(END) Dow Jones Newswires
09-12-13 0549ETCopyright (c) 2013 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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