US STOCKS-Wall St flat after jobless claims, housing data to come

Thu Mar 21, 2013 9:03am EDT

* U.S. jobless claims rise in latest week
    * Existing home sales, Philly Fed business survey on tap
    * Brokerages cut price targets on Oracle after Q3 miss
    * Futures: S&P flat; Dow up 15 pts; Nasdaq off 2.5 pts


    By Angela Moon
    NEW YORK, March 21 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures were
little changed on Thursday as jobless claims last week were in
line with expectations and investors awaited data on the housing
and manufacturing sectors.
    A solution to Cyprus's financial "mess" kept investors
cautious.
    The number of Americans filing new claims for jobless
benefits edged higher last week, but a trend reading dropped to
its lowest in five years and pointed to healing in the labor
market. 
    Monthly data on sales of existing homes and the Philadelphia
Federal Reserve Bank's business activity index are due at 10
a.m. (1400 GMT).
    "I think we will get market-friendly numbers and that could
propel the S&P 500 to new record highs," Peter Cardillo, chief
market economist at Rockwell Global Capital in New York.
    Oracle Corp shares were sharply off in premarket
trade, down nearly 8 percent, after a number of brokerages cut
their price target on the company. 
    The world's No. 3 software maker blamed its rapidly
expanding salesforce for a severe miss in third-quarter software
sales and warned that its ailing hardware business will lose
more ground this quarter. The company reported results late
Wednesday. 
    J.C. Penney Co Inc 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. The stock was up 1.1 percent in
premarket trade. 
    S&P 500 futures were flat and in line with 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 up 15
points while Nasdaq 100 futures fell 2.5 points.
    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. 
    Euro zone finance officials acknowledged being "in a mess"
over Cyprus and discussed imposing capital controls to insulate
the region from a possible collapse of the Cypriot economy
    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.
    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 performing below 
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.
 
    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.
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