LONDON (ShareCast) – US stock futures pointed to a low opening on Thursday, as markets faced renewed uncertainty over a Greece bailout while energy stocks were hit by low prices. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is expected to open approximately 22 points lower, while the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq are expected to begin the session 3 points down and 3.50 points up respectively.
On Thursday, reports emerged that Germany had rejected Greece’s request for a six-month extension on its loan agreement, claiming the demand was “not a substantial proposal for a solution”.
Markets closed marginally lower on Wednesday, as investors came to terms with the minutes from the latest meeting of the Federal Reserve, which seemed to suggest the rate hike might come later than expected.
“The enhanced possibility of the Federal Reserve hiking interest rates later in the year after a set of dovish FOMC minutes helped US stock markets pull off the lows on Wednesday,” said CMC Markets analyst Jasper Lawler.
“Nevertheless, losses in the energy sector dragged the major indices just into the red as oil prices slid.” In terms of economic data, weekly jobless claims are out at 13:30 GMT, with analysts expecting the number of Americans to have filed for unemployment benefits last week to drop to 290,000 from 304,000.
The Philadelphia Fed’s manufacturing index is released at 15:00 GMT and economists expect a slight rebound in the index, which fell from 24.3 in December to 6.3 in January.
Energy stocks were the worst hit ahead of the bell, after oil prices tumbled to about $ 50 a barrel, in the wake of reports showing a huge increase in US crude stockpiles.
Exxon Mobil (Swiss: XOM.SW – news) slid just over 1%, with ConocoPhillips (NYSE: COP – news) dropping almost 1.5% and Halliburton (Hanover: HAL.HA – news) edging closer to a 2% decline.
T-Mobile US was making waves ahead of the bell after reporting a better-than-expected surge in revenue and swinging to a profit in the fourth quarter, while Wal-Mart Stores edged forward ahead of its fourth quarter results.
“So far it would appear the US consumer is not taking advantage of lower petrol prices,” said Lawler.
“Should Wal-Mart sales come ahead of forecasts that could make a big difference to market expectations for the US consumer and the overall health of the US economy.” Priceline Group (Swiss: PCLN.SW – news) surged 6% in pre-market trading after profit and sales beat expectations.