US STOCKS-Futures flat before jobless claims, retail data

* Costco’s sales beat forecasts, shares rise

* Bed Bath & Beyond soars after earnings outlook

* Futures: Dow up 10 pts, S&P up 0.7 pt, Nasdaq off 1 pt

* For up-to-the-minute market news see [STXNEWS/US]
(Updates prices, adds comment, byline)

By Rodrigo Campos

NEW YORK, April 7 (Reuters) – U.S. stock index futures were
little changed on Thursday before data on the labor market and
same-store sales, which could offer clues about the outlook for
U.S. consumer spending.

The S&P 500 closed Wednesday above a key technical level
and its ability to hold above 1,333.58 will be tested. The
level is double the cycle low hit in March 2009 and is near a
recent 2-1/2 year high of about 1,344, which could bring
technical resistance.

The Labor Department releases first-time claims for jobless
benefits for the week ended April 2 at 8:30 a.m. (1230 GMT).
Economists in a Reuters survey forecast a total of 385,000 new
filings compared with 388,000 in the previous week.

Retailers’ shares will be in focus as major companies
release same-store sales data, while a shopping center group
will report on chain store sales for March versus a year ago.

Among the first sales numbers on Thursday, Costco Wholesale
Corp (COST.O: Quote, Profile, Research) beat expectations with a 13 percent rise in March
same-store sales, compared with a forecast for 7.4 percent. Its
shares gained 1.4 percent in premarket trade. [ID:nLDE7360HJ].

The jobless claims numbers “are extremely interesting,”
said Kim Caughey Forrest, senior equity research analyst at
Fort Pitt Capital Group in Pittsburgh.

She said jobs and sales data can draw a picture about
future spending. “Everyone is concerned about how consumers are
reacting to the (rising) price of gasoline.”

S&P 500 futures (SPc1: Quote, Profile, Research) rose 0.7 point and were slightly
below fair value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking
into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration
of the contract. Dow Jones industrial average futures (DJc1: Quote, Profile, Research)
rose 10 points and Nasdaq 100 futures (NDc1: Quote, Profile, Research) dipped 1 point.

Average weekly volume has so far been the lowest of the
year, raising questions about stocks’ recent rebound.

“Light volume is a little concerning. I’d like to see a
little more conviction in buyers,” Forrest said. “But if
anything, it also shows a lack of people’s willingness to
sell.”

Bed Bath and Beyond Inc (BBBY.O: Quote, Profile, Research) shares jumped 10 percent
in premarket trade a day after it forecast earnings growth for
the current year that would beat Wall Street estimates,
following a holiday season that saw U.S. shoppers spend more on
home goods. For details see [ID:nN06160714].

Goldman Sachs Group (GS.N: Quote, Profile, Research) is seeking to buy the 55 percent
of its Australian and New Zealand joint venture that it does
not already own, the company said on Thursday. [ID:nL3E7F63F1]

The European Central Bank announced it was raising its main
refinancing rate by 25 basis points to 1.25 percent, as
expected. [ID:nFLA7FE7M8]

Portugal’s financial sector can expect some relief after
the caretaker government decided to seek financial aid
following months of what many economists said was a refusal to
acknowledge economic reality. [ID:nLDE7352EI]

On Wednesday, the Dow Jones industrial average (.DJI: Quote, Profile, Research) rose
32.85 points, or 0.27 percent, to close at 12,426.75. The
Standard & Poor’s 500 Index (.SPX: Quote, Profile, Research) gained 2.91 points, or 0.22
percent, to 1,335.54. The Nasdaq Composite Index (.IXIC: Quote, Profile, Research)
advanced 8.63 points, or 0.31 percent, to 2,799.82.
(Reporting by Rodrigo Campos; Editing by Kenneth Barry)

US STOCKS-Futures flat before jobless claims, retail data