* Initial claims decline slightly
* Markit manufacturing increases
* Futures off: Dow 40 pts, S&P 4.6 pts, Nasdaq 10.75 pts
By Chuck Mikolajczak
NEW YORK, Jan 2 U.S. stocks were poised for a
lower open on Thursday, after the S&P 500 wrapped up its best
year since 1997, as investors digested data on manufacturing and
the labor market.
The S&P 500 closed out 2013 with a spectacular 29.6
percent gain for the year - its best annual performance since
1997, adding $3.75 trillion in market value. The Dow
climbed 26.5 percent in its best year since 1995. The Nasdaq
jumped 38.3 percent, its best year since 2009.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits slipped 2,000
to a seasonally adjusted 339,000, the second weekly decline in a
row, suggesting labor market conditions continue to steadily
In another sign of economic improvement, financial data firm
Markit said its final U.S. Manufacturing Purchasing Managers
Index rose to 55.0 last month, beating November's 54.7 reading
and an initial December estimate of 54.4.
"Investors are going to take a deep breath and try to assess
a new set of data for the year, that may mean waiting until we
see employment data next week," said Jack Ablin, chief
investment officer at BMO Private Bank in Chicago.
"Some of (the decline) is natural profit-taking for tax
purposes, move your gains into the following tax year."
Later in the session at 10:00 a.m. (1500 GMT), the Institute
for Supply Management's manufacturing index will be released.
The ISM index is expected to show a reading of 57 versus the
prior reading of 57.3.
In China, official and private manufacturing surveys showed
factory activity slowed in December in the world's
second-largest economy, reinforcing views China's economy
moderated in the last quarter of 2013.
Separately, Markit's Eurozone Manufacturing Purchasing
Managers Index (PMI) rose to 52.7 in December from November's
51.6, its fastest rate since mid-2011 in December, on brisk
business in Germany and Italy.
S&P 500 futures fell 4.6 points and were 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 lost 40
points and Nasdaq 100 futures declined 10.75 points.
Volume is once again expected to be on the light side, as
many market participants remain out of the office due to the New
Year's holiday-interrupted week.
Apple Inc dipped 1 percent to $555.30 in premarket
trading. Wells Fargo cut its rating on the iPad maker to "market
perform" from "outperform."