(Corrects name of director at Lek Securities to Andre from
* U.S. economy posts sluggish growth fourth quarter
* U.S. jobless claims rise more than expected in latest week
* BlackBerry reports quarterly profit; shares up
* Cyprus reopens banks under tight restrictions
* Futures: S&P flat; Dow flat; Nasdaq up 3 pts
By Angela Moon
NEW YORK, March 28 Wall Street was set for a
flat open on Thursday after data showed initial jobless claims
rose more than expected last week and the U.S. economy expanded
at a sluggish pace in the fourth quarter.
But U.S. stocks were set to close out a strong quarter with
the S&P 500 up nearly 10 percent for the first quarter, the Dow
up 11 percent and the Nasdaq up 8 percent. Thursday is the U.S.
stock markets' last trading day as Friday is Good Friday and a
Analysts also expected the S&P 500, which has been hovering
near the record closing high for weeks, would finally break
above the level.
"We've been in a pause phase for past 10 sessions or so,
mainly because of the Cyprus wild card. There was hesitation in
the market but it seems like the situation is sort of in control
now," said Andre Bakhos, director of market analytics at Lek
Securities in New York.
"I expect not only the closing high but a new record high in
the next few sessions (for the S&P 500 index)."
Data showed the economy expanded at a sluggish pace of 0.4
percent in the fourth quarter although a big gain in business
investment and higher exports of services led the government to
push up its previous estimate for growth.
The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment
benefits rose more than expected last week, but probably not
enough to suggest the labor market recovery was taking a step
Tight controls have been imposed on transactions by Cyprus's
banks to limit cash withdrawals, ban checks and bar businesses
from transferring money abroad in most cases as banks reopened
after nearly two weeks.
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 5
points while Nasdaq 100 futures added 3 points.
BlackBerry announced an unexpected
fourth-quarter profit on Thursday, driven by demand for its new
touchscreen device which holds the key to a successful
turnaround for the smartphone maker. U.S.-listed shares were up
2 percent in premarket trade.
Chesapeake Energy Corp's search for a new chief
executive to replace Aubrey McClendon is likely to extend beyond
an April 1 deadline, according to a person familiar with the
Influential proxy advisory firm ISS threw its weight behind
opponents of MetroPCS Communications Inc's proposed
merger with T-Mobile USA, saying the deal undervalued the
company and shareholders should vote against it. MetroPCS shares
were up 2.6 percent in premarket trade.
A federal judge on Wednesday said JPMorgan Chase & Co
must face a lawsuit by a pension plan that accused it of
mismanaging its money by investing in Lehman Brothers Holdings
Inc notes before that bank filed for bankruptcy in 2008.
U.S. stocks rebounded from early declines to close little
changed on Wednesday, as investors worried about a run on
(Reporting By Angela Moon; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and