Stocks set to rebound slightly at open

By Chuck Mikolajczak

NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. stocks were set for a slightly higher open on Thursday, a day after suffering its biggest losses in nearly a year, as data showed a fall in weekly jobless claims, although short of expectations.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits slipped 6,000 to a seasonally adjusted 422,000, while economists polled by Reuters forecast 415,000.

“We’ve been through a couple week period here where basically every piece of economic data has just been awful. This was a little less awful, but still awful,” said John Canally, investment strategist and economist for LPL Financial in Boston.

“You get to a certain point with the economic data that it is just so bad and expectations are so low, that anything that is not a disaster pushes the market up, and we may be getting that, although the big news really is tomorrow’s jobs report.”

Investors may be reluctant to make big bets ahead of the non-farm payrolls data on Friday, which is expected to show 150,000 jobs were added in May, according to a Thomson Reuters poll of economists.

S&P 500 futures gained 2.1 points 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 6 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures climbed 8.5 points.

Other data for Thursday includes factory orders for April, at 10 a.m. EDT., which are expected to show a declined of 1 percent, compared with the prior month’s 3.4 percent increase.

A handful of U.S. retailers beat sales expectations for May on a strong selections of goods and as shoppers looked for deals.

Target Corp edged down 0.1 percent to $48.50, and Gap Inc dropped 2.4 percent to $18.45 in premarket trade. Target and Gap both missed estimates.

U.S. officials softened rules that could have cut off tuition aid to some programs run by for-profit colleges. Corinthian Colleges Inc surged 40.1 percent to $5.59, and Apollo Group Inc jumped 16.9 percent to $49.30.