US STOCKS-Wall St flat ahead of slew of data
* Jobless claims, existing home sales, Philly Fed business survey on tap * ECB gives Cyprus bailout ultimatum; banks face cutoff * Futures: S&P flat; Dow flat; Nasdaq off 2.5 pts By Angela Moon NEW YORK, March 21 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures were little changed on Thursday as investors awaited a batch of data for a better assessment of the U.S. economy while keeping an eye on the financial health of Cyprus. * The European Central Bank gave Cyprus until Monday to raise billions of euros to clinch an international bailout or face losing emergency funds for its banks. * Cyprus's leaders were locked in talks on a "Plan B" to try to raise 5.8 billion euros demanded by the EU under a 10 billion euro ($13 billion) rescue, after angry lawmakers threw out a tax on deposits. * On the macro front, investors awaited U.S. weekly jobless claims, due at 8:30 a.m. ET (1230 GMT). Monthly data on sales of existing homes and the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank's business activity index are due at 10:00 a.m. ET (1400 GMT). * Analysts in a Reuters survey expect initial jobless claims of 342,000, up from 332,000 in the previous week. * Shares in J.C. Penney Co Inc will be in focus after the retailer said in an annual report filed on Wednesday that fixing its performance could take more time than it initially believed and suggested that any change in its strategy could be expensive. * S&P 500 futures were flat and slightly 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 were flat while Nasdaq 100 futures fell 2.5 points. * On Wednesday, Wall Street ended higher with the S&P 500 snapping a three-day losing streak, as the Federal Reserve reassured investors that it would keep supporting the economy. * Apparel retailers Guess Inc, Tilly's Inc and Pacific Sunwear of California Inc forecast first-quarter results significantly below analysts' estimates as they battle flagging consumer demand due to a sluggish economy and higher payroll taxes. * Blackstone Group LP, which is weighing an offer for Dell Inc, is making an aggressive push to recruit Oracle Corp President Mark Hurd to be chief executive of the world's No. 3 PC maker, a person familiar with the situation said on Wednesday. * Raymond James Financial warned on Wednesday that its capital markets business so far this year is underperforming expectations and that clients of its core retail brokerage sector are not rushing back into the stock market. * Visa Inc Chief Executive Charlie Scharf suggested on Wednesday that the payment network may impose a fee on digital wallet operators like PayPal, following rival MasterCard Inc . Shares of eBay Inc, owner of PayPal, the largest such operator, have been hit hard on concerns other payment networks may roll out similar fees. * Boeing Co plans to conduct two flight tests of its revamped 787 battery system, possibly as soon as the end of the week, according to three sources familiar with the matter. The 787 flights, the first since February, would mark another step toward Boeing's recently announced goal of returning the grounded jet to service in a matter of weeks, not months.
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