U.S. stock index futures ticked lower on Thursday as investors turned to weekly unemployment claims data amid fears that signs of an improving economy would lead the Federal Reserve to start tapering its accommodative monetary policy.
Worries about rising inflation and a potential tightening of policy have weighed on Wall Street’s main indexes in May, with the benchmark S&P 500 (.SPX) on course for its smallest monthly gain in four.
Those concerns, however, eased this week as a number of Fed officials said the central bank would maintain its dovish stance, even as they acknowledged they were closer to debating reining in support.
Investor focus on Thursday will be on the Labor Department’s weekly jobless claims report, considered the most timely indicator of economic health.
The number of Americans filing new claims for jobless benefits likely stayed below 500,000 for a third straight week, the report due at 8:30 a.m. ET (1230 GMT) is expected to show.
A separate report is expected to confirm that the U.S. economy accelerated at its fastest pace in nearly four decades in the first quarter.
Investors will then look out for the personal consumption expenditures (PCE) report due on Friday as it is the central bank’s preferred inflation measure for its 2% long-term target.
At 6:37 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were down 12 points, or 0.04%, and S&P 500 e-minis were down 8.75 points, or 0.21%.
Nasdaq 100 e-minis were down 55.5 points, or 0.41%, as heavyweights Apple Inc (AAPL.O), Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O), Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) slipped between 0.2% and 0.7%.
In thin company news, specialty refiner Vertex Energy (VTNR.O) nearly doubled in value after saying it was set to buy Royal Dutch Shell’s (RDSa.L) refinery in Mobile, Alabama for $75 million plus the cost of hydrocarbon inventory.
Nvidia Corp (NVDA.O) forecast second-quarter revenue above analysts’ estimates, but shares fell 0.3% as the company could not say for certain how much of its recent revenue rise was driven by the volatile cryptocurrency-mining market.