U.S. equities seen opening little changed

* U.S. shares were expected to open little changed on
Thursday, with futures for the S&P 500 (SPc1: Quote, Profile, Research), the Dow Jones
(DJc1: Quote, Profile, Research) and the Nasdaq 100 (NDc1: Quote, Profile, Research) trading flat to 0.1 percent
higher.

* Labor Department releases at 1230 GMT first-time claims
for jobless benefits for the week ended March 19. Economists in
a Reuters survey forecast a total of 383,000 new filings,
compared with 385,000 in the prior week.

* Oracle Corp (ORCL.O: Quote, Profile, Research) is poised to provide fresh evidence
of the upward curve of technology spending on Thursday, and to
detail its battle plan against emerging competitor
Hewlett-Packard Co (HPQ.N: Quote, Profile, Research) as the two tech giants vie to lead
the datacenter revolution. [ID:nN23112356]

* Other companies to announce results include Best Buy
(BBY.N: Quote, Profile, Research), ConAgra Foods (CAG.N: Quote, Profile, Research) and Darden Restaurants (DRI.N: Quote, Profile, Research).

* Commerce Department will release at 1230 GMT February
durable goods orders data. Economists expect a rise in orders of
1.1 percent, versus a 3.2 percent increase in January.

* Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates resigned on
Wednesday and warned of grave consequences for the country after
parliament rejected his government’s latest austerity measures
aimed at avoiding a bailout.

The yield on 10- and five-year Portuguese government bonds
rose to a new euro-era high on Thursday after Socrates’ move,
increasing expectations Lisbon will follow Greece and Ireland to
seek international aid. It also threw into disarray a summit of
European Union leaders later this week at which they had been
expected to take tough decisions to address the region’s debt
crisis. [nLDE72N0AM]

* Ratings agency Moody’s downgraded its debt ratings of 30
Spanish banks by one or more notches, and said the outlook
remained weak with no major improvement seen in the foreseeable
future. The ratings cut followed the downgrade of Spain
sovereign debt rating on March 10 by the agency to Aa2.
[ID:nLDE72N0B1]

* Western warplanes hit Libya for a fifth night on Thursday,
but so far have failed to stop Muammar Gaddafi’s tanks shelling
rebel-held towns or dislodge his armour from a strategic
junction in the east. [ID:nLDE72N006]

* Stores in Tokyo were running out of bottled water after
radiation from a damaged nuclear complex briefly made tap water
unsafe for babies, while more nations curbed imports of Japanese
food. [ID:nL3E7EN3MI]

* Shares in Red Hat Inc (RHT.N: Quote, Profile, Research) and Micron Technology Inc
(MU.O: Quote, Profile, Research) rose 8 percent and 3.7 percent respectively after the
bell on Wednesday after the companies announced results.

* On Wednesday, the Dow Jones industrial average (.DJI: Quote, Profile, Research)
gained 67.39 points, or 0.56 percent, to 12,086.02. The Standard
& Poor’s 500 Index (.SPX: Quote, Profile, Research) rose 3.77 points, or 0.29 percent, to
1,297.54. The Nasdaq Composite Index (.IXIC: Quote, Profile, Research) climbed 14.43
points, or 0.54 percent, to 2,698.30.

* European shares were little changed on Thursday, with
gains in heavyweight mining firms outperforming weak banking
stocks which were pressured by persistent fears over the euro
zone debt crisis.
(Reporting by Atul Prakash; editing by Sophie Walker)

U.S. equities seen opening little changed