* 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 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 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.