US STOCKS-Futures down on euro zone worry; jobless claims in focus

Thu Apr 5, 2012 8:14am EDT

* Spanish yields rise after Wednesday's bond auction

* U.S. jobless claims data on tap

* S&P 500 below 14-day moving average for first time in a month

* Futures down: S&P 5.2 pts, Dow 48 pts, Nasdaq 3.75 pts

By Angela Moon

NEW YORK, April 5 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures fell on Thursday as a rise in Spanish bond yields renewed concerns about the euro zone's financial health, and as investors awaited report on U.S. jobless claims.

Concerns mounted about Spain and its ability to meet budget targets, hitting the euro zone peripheral indexes. Poor demand at a Spanish bond sale on Wednesday heightened fears about funding difficulties for weaker euro zone countries, with investors seeing an easing of the effects of the European Central Bank's huge liquidity injections.

The U.S. Labor Department releases first-time claims for jobless benefits for the week ended March 31 at 8:30 a.m. ET (1230 GMT). Economists in a Reuters survey forecast a total of 355,000 new filings compared with 359,000 in the prior week.

The data will provide clues on the all-important March employment data due on the Good Friday holiday when markets will be closed.

"It's going to be a choppy, cautious trading day. Jitters over Spain, heading into the long weekend, and the all-important jobs report out tomorrow, there isn't much that would motivate investors at this time," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Global Capital in New York.

Earlier on Thursday, Challenger, Gray & Christmas, reported that the number of planned layoffs at U.S. firms fell in March to the lowest level in 10 months as the government sector cut fewer jobs.

S&P 500 futures fell 5.2 points and were 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 lost 48 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures fell 3.75 points.

Ford Motor Co has raised its forecast for total 2012 U.S. auto sales after the industry's solid first quarter, Ford President for the Americas Mark Fields said on Wednesday.

JPMorgan Chase & Co Chief Executive Jamie Dimon said on Wednesday that the company is inclined to restrict its stock buybacks when its shares are trading above $45.

Nike Inc beat rival Reebok International in court on Wednesday in a legal pile-up over the use of popular National Football League quarterback Tim Tebow's name and number on shirts of his new team, the New York Jets.

Apple Inc and publishers Pearson and Macmillan are reluctant to agree to terms sought by U.S. and European antitrust authorities investigating possible electronic-book price-fixing, the Wall Street Journal cited sources as saying on Wednesday.

Quest Software Inc's new chief executive rushed to sell the company to head off a possible investigation by regulators, according to a shareholder lawsuit that shines a light on the technology company's accounting.

The services sector in China, the world's second-largest economy, expanded solidly in March and business confidence hit an 11-month high, though overall activity remained below its long-term average, a private sector survey of purchasing managers showed on Thursday.

U.S. stocks fell for a second day on Wednesday as investors contemplated a world without monetary stimulus and a poorly received bond auction in Spain suggested the effects of Europe's funding operations were waning.

The benchmark S&P 500 index has fallen in eight of the past 12 sessions, dropping below its 14-day moving average for the first time in a month. The Nasdaq posted its worst daily percentage drop since Dec. 14.