* Yum Brands falls on avian flu sales impact
* PC makers down after report says sales plummeted in Q1
* Futures: Dow up 17 pts, S&P up 0.5 pts, Nasdaq off 6.25
By Chuck Mikolajczak
NEW YORK, April 11 U.S. stocks were set to inch
higher at the open on Thursday, indicating the Dow and S&P may
continue to scale historic highs after data showed new claims
for unemployment benefits fell last week.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped
42,000 to a seasonally adjusted 346,000 last week, the Labor
Department said, beating expectations for a drop to 365,000, and
unwinding a jump in the previous week.
Both the Dow and S&P climbed more than 1
percent on Wednesday to close at new record highs after three
straight days of gains.
"It seems like it is all systems go here, I am not sensing
any sense of fear on any level," said Gordon Charlop, a managing
director at Rosenblatt Securities in New York.
"With market conditions being what they are, with the data
being what it is, the Fed policy being what it is, the climate
for American equities is as good now as it's been in the past
Other data showed import prices slipped 0.5 percent last
month, in line with expectations, while export prices fell 0.4
percent, signaling inflation pressure remained tepid and would
allow the Federal Reserve to continue with its current monetary
S&P 500 futures rose 0.5 point and were slightly
above 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 rose
17 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures dipped 6.25 points.
Shares of Yum Brands Inc dipped 2.8 percent to
$64.90 in premarket trading after the biggest foreign fast-food
chain operator in China said Wednesday the latest deadly avian
flu outbreak would have a "significant, negative impact" on
sales at KFC stores in China in April.
Retailers will be in focus as they post monthly sales
results. Warehouse club chain Costco Wholesale Corp
reported a 4 percent rise in March sales at stores open at least
a year, missing analysts' expectations, due to lower fuel prices
and a strong dollar.
Microsoft Corp dropped 3.5 percent to $29.23 in
premarket trading after Goldman Sachs cut its rating on the
stock to "sell" from "neutral."
A leading tech tracking firm said personal computer sales
plunged 14 percent in the first three months of the year, the
biggest decline in two decades of keeping records.
Hewlett-Packard Co fell 6.1 percent to $21.12 and Intel
Corp lost 2.1 percent to $21.80 in premarket trade.
Deutsche Telekom sweetened its terms for the
proposed merger between T-Mobile USA and MetroPCS Communications
by reducing the combined company's debt, bowing to
pressure from activists and proxy advisory firms. MetroPcs
shares slipped 1.5 percent to $11.39 before the opening bell.
Acadia Pharmaceuticals Inc surged 42.3 percent to
$11.37 in premarket trading after the drugmaker said data from
an initial late-stage trial would be sufficient to file for
approval for its experimental Parkinson's Disease drug, and it
would not need to conduct an additional trial as it had planned