US STOCKS-Futures flat before labor market, sales data

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 also provide
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.

* Bed Bath and Beyond Inc (BBBY.O: Quote, Profile, Research) shares jumped 9 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].

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

* Among the first sales numbers released 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. [ID:nLDE7360HJ].

* S&P 500 futures (SPc1: Quote, Profile, Research) fell 0.3 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)
were unchanged and Nasdaq 100 futures (NDc1: Quote, Profile, Research) dipped 2.5
points.

* General Electric (GE.N: Quote, Profile, Research) is set to announce it will build
America’s largest photovoltaic panel factory, with the goal of
becoming a major player in the market, the New York Times
reported. [ID:nL3E7F70J2]

* Pharmaceutical company SuperGen Inc (SUPG.O: Quote, Profile, Research) plans to buy
privately held biotechnology firm Astex Therapeutics Limited,
the companies said on Wednesday. [ID:nN06272023]

* 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 is poised to raise interest
rates from a record low 1.0 percent on Thursday, with more
hikes likely to follow. However, the ECB is expected to give
few clues about when the next move will come. [ID:nLDE7351QH]

* The Bank of England held interest rates at a record low
of 0.5 percent as expected, opting to wait for more signs that
the recovery is on track before tightening policy.
[ID:nTAR005492]

* Portugal’s financial sector can expect some relief after
the caretaker government decided to seek financial aid after
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 labor market, sales data