Market Snapshot: U.S. stocks: Futures threaten choppy session as jobs report nears

Wall Street was poised for another choppy session on Thursday, with stock-index futures flipping from minor losses to minor gains as investors gauge whether incoming data strengthen the case for a Federal Reserve rate hike.

Stock futures held on to minor gains after government data showed first-time claims for unemployment benefits rose by 3,000 in the week ended Aug. 1 to 270,000, matching forecasts. The focus remains on the top-tier jobs report on Friday, which traders have been waiting for all week.

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average YMU5, +0.08%  were up 8 points, or less than 0.1%, at 17,483, with bulls looking to avert a six-day losing streak. The blue-chip benchmark closed lower for a fifth straight session on Wednesday, weighed by a 9% loss for Walt Disney Co. DIS, -9.17% which came on the back of a mixed earnings report.

S&P 500 index futures ESU5, +0.09%  added 1.20 points, or 0.1%, to trade at 2,095, while Nasdaq-100 index futures NQU5, +0.14%  rose 7 points, or 0.1%, to 4,600.50. Both benchmarks closed higher after a choppy session on Wednesday, when conflicting economic data created mixed expectations for the timing of the first Fed rate rise.

Jobs data: Yesterday’s ADP private-sector employment report signaled a slowdown in jobs growth, raising concerns about the strength of the nonfarm-payrolls report out on Friday.

“Although we’ve argued for a number of times that the ADP’s survey has lost some of its charm, it does suggest that the consensus forecast for tomorrow’s nonfarm payrolls, at 225,000, may be a bit too rosy. [A rate hike in] December it is, then?” said analysts at Rabobank in a note on Thursday.

Read: Why the rosier view on jobs might be the right one

While first-time jobless claims rose last week, the average of new claims over the past month fell by 6,500 to a seasonally adjusted 268,250—the lowest level since mid-May and the second smallest reading since the end of the recession in 2009.

Earnings: Shares of SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. SEAS, -1.58%  fell more than 5% in premarket trade after profit and revenue fell short of estimates.

Fashion company Michael Kors Holdings Ltd. KORS, +2.46%  reported better-than-expected first-quarter earnings, sending shares more than 6% higher in premarket action.

New York Times Co. NYT, +0.08%  was little changed in premarket action after reporting second-quarter results. Earnings topped forecasts while sales came in below consensus.

And after the market closes, fried-chicken chain Bojangles’ Inc. BOJA, -2.36% which went public in May, will report, along with pharma Allergan PLC AGN, +1.70%  and game developer Zynga Inc. ZNGA, +0.80%

Movers and shakers: Shares in Mondelez International Inc. MDLZ, +1.51%  were up more than 5% in premarket trading after activist investor Bill Ackman said he has built a $ 5.5 billion stake in the maker of Oreo cookies and Ritz crackers.

Shares of Keurig Green Mountain Inc. GMCR, -2.10%  sank 29% ahead of the bell after the coffee-machine maker late Wednesday reported a drop in sales and announced job cuts.

Tesla Motors Inc. TSLA, +1.45%  slumped nearly 7% in premarket after the electric-car manufacturer topped Wall Street expectations for quarterly results, but forecast it would sell fewer cars this year than previously estimated.

Fitbit Inc. FIT, +3.92%  shaved off 11% ahead of the market open, even as the wearable tech company late Wednesday reported first-quarter results that blew past expectations.

CF Industries Holdings Inc. CF, +1.80%  said it sealed a deal to takeover Dutch fertilizer per OCI NV OCI, +5.97%  to create a global nitrogen heavyweight.

Other markets: European stocks SXXP, -0.38%  were mixed, with Greece’s Athex Composite GD, +2.92%  rebounding after sliding for three days in a row. Read: Greek banks plunge 64% in three days

Shares in China SHCOMP, -0.89%  declined as investors continued to worry about Beijing’s measures to support the country’s stock market.

Oil prices continued to slide, with the U.S. crude benchmark CLU5, -1.15%  falling below $ 45 a barrel. Most metals rose, while the ICE Dollar index DXY, +0.19% was little changed.

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