Posted: Aug 9, 2012 6:45 AM by CNNMoney staff
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- U.S. stocks were headed for a muted open Thursday ahead of a handful of economic reports, including the latest data on unemployment claims.
Chinese economic data was also in focus. Industrial production in the world's second largest economy slowed for a third straight month in July. However, inflation in China eased to the slowest rate in two-and-a-half years. The data fueled hopes that China's central bank might intervene with stimulus measures to boost economic growth.
U.S. stock futures were up between 0.1% and 0.3% ahead of the opening bell.
U.S. stocks have been on a run recently, with four straight days of gains for the Dow and S&P 500 pushing the indexes to the highest levels since early May. But trading volume has been light and is expected to remain that way as traders take time off for vacation through the end of August.
The government will release data on initial jobless claims, the trade balance and wholesale inventories on Thursday morning.
Meanwhile, investors will also continue to eye quarterly financial results, with firms including Kohl's and Wendy's on tap to report.
Nearly 90% of S&P 500 companies had reported their quarterly results as of Wednesday. Earnings are on pace to grow just 0.9% overall.
On the bright side, 65% of the companies topped Wall Street expectations, higher than the average rate of 62% over the past decade.
Beyond American shores, Europe remains a source of anxiety, with worries about a potential Spanish bailout particularly acute. Borrowing costs for Spain and Italy are uncomfortably high, with the Spanish 10-year yield hovering around 7% and the Italian 10-year yield just below 6%.
U.S. stocks ended little changed Wednesday as investors took a breather.
World markets: European stocks were mixed in morning trading. Britain's FTSE 100 and France's CAC 40 rose 0.1%, while the DAX in Germany slipped 0.2%.
Asian markets ended with solid gains. The Shanghai Composite rose 0.6%, and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong and Japan's Nikkei both added more than 1%.
China's annual inflation rate fell to 1.8% in July, the government's National Bureau of Statistics reported Thursday, down from 2.2% in June. That's the lowest inflation rate in two-and-a-half years.
Industrial production slowed to 9.2% from a year earlier in July, according to China's National Bureau of Statistics. The reading marked the slowest rate of growth since May 2009.
Economy: At 8:30 a.m. ET, the Labor Department will release its figures for first-time unemployment claims in the week ended Aug. 4. These claims are expected to total 375,000, according to a survey of analysts by Briefing.com.
Also at 8:30, the Census Bureau will release figures for the June trade deficit, which is expected to stand at $47.5 billion, down slightly from the prior month.
At 10 a.m. ET, the Census Bureau will release data on June wholesale inventories, which are expected to have increased by 0.3%.
Companies: Wendy's is expected to report quarterly earnings of 5 cents a share on $647 million in revenue, according to a survey of analysts by Thomson Reuters. Kohl's is forecast to report earnings of 96 cents a share on $4.2 billion in revenue.
News Corp. reported quarterly results that met expectations on earnings but missed on sales.
Currencies and commodities: The dollar rose against the euro, the British pound and the Japanese yen.
Oil for September delivery rose 24 cents to $93.59 a barrel.
Gold futures for December delivery fell 30 cents to $1,615.70 an ounce.
Bonds: The price on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury fell, pushing the yield up to 1.69% from 1.64% late Wednesday.