* Wal-Mart falls after earnings
* Initial claims, housing starts, Philly Fed on tap
* Facebook lockup ends
* Futures up: Dow 15 pts, S&P 1.8 pts, Nasdaq 1.5 pts
By Chuck Mikolajczak
NEW YORK, Aug 16 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures edged
higher on Thursday ahead of data on the housing and labor
markets as well as a regional manufacturing report.
At 8:30 a.m. ET (1230 GMT) investors will look to first-time
claims for jobless benefits for the week ended Aug. 11 for clues
on the health of the labor market. Economists forecast a total
of 365,000 new filings, compared with 361,000 in the prior week.
Also at 8:30 a.m. ET (1230 GMT) the Commerce Department
releases housing starts and permits for July. Economists
forecast a 757,000 annualized rate in July, versus 760,000 in
June. Recent data has hinted at a housing market that has hit a
bottom and may be showing signs of recovery.
"The accumulation of the data points, combined with second-
quarter earnings, (mean) the trend has actually been downward.
People have to come to grips with that, you can't be in denial
about that - the economy is slowing," said Keith Bliss, senior
vice-president at Cuttone & Co in New York.
"So we will be watching that to lay the groundwork for
The S&P capped off its longest win streak since December
2010 on Aug. 10, boosted by expectations for more stimulus from
central banks in the United States and euro zone to stimulate
their respective economies in September.
But the index has stalled in more recent sessions, unable to
convincingly break above the 1,405 level, which has acted as a
stiff resistance point.
"Although the deconstruction of the euro zone is still upon
us, nothing has really been solved over there so I can't wait
until after Labor Day when they come back and start telling us
how good or bad things are over there again. The bad news is
that it left our markets in a pretty complacent situation," said
Cisco Systems Inc rose 5.9 percent to $18.38 in
premarket trading after the world's largest network equipment
maker offered little hope that dire economic conditions in
Europe would come to an end any time soon but announced a 75
percent dividend hike and posted quarterly results that beat
Wal-Mart shed 3.4 percent to $71.90 in premarket trade as
the world's largest retailer posted a bigger-than-expected jump
in quarterly profit but forecast full-year earnings that could
fall short of Wall Street expectations.
Facebook Inc dipped 2 percent to $20.77 before the
opening bell. Shares are set to hit the market Thursday after a
lockup period, preventing some insider sales, comes to an end.
Later in the session at 10:00 a.m. (1400 GMT), the
Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank releases the August business
activity survey. Economists forecast a reading of -5.0, versus
-12.9 in July. A report from the New York Federal Reserve on
Thursday showed factory activity in New York state contracted in
August for the first time since October 2011.
S&P 500 futures rose 1.8 points and were above fair
value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account
interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the
contract. Dow Jones industrial average futures gained 15
points, and Nasdaq 100 futures added 1.5 points.
Retailer Sears Holdings Corp reported a quarterly
loss in line with Wall Street estimates as lower expenses offset
Applied Materials forecast current-quarter revenue
below expectations and its chief executive hinted the top
chip-gear maker could shed poorly performing non-core
businesses. Its shares fell 4.41 percent to $11.28 in premarket
Dollar Tree fell 6 percent to $47 in light
premarket trade after the discount retailer posted
second-quarter earnings and gave its outlook for the
third-quarter and full-year.
S&P 500 companies scheduled to post results on Thursday
include GameStop Corp, Gap Inc and Ross Stores
With earnings season winding down, Thomson Reuters data
shows that of the 463 companies in the S&P 500 that have
reported earnings through Wednesday morning, 67.6 percent beat
analysts' expectations, about the same rate as over the past
European shares edged marginally lower in quiet trade as the
recent rally lost steam waiting for central banks to act to
boost growth and with China warning overnight its trade outlook
for 2012 was worsening. [.EU}
Asian shares inched higher but gains were limited as
investors waited for more clues over the timing and extent of
any further stimulus to tackle the euro zone's debt crisis and
support global growth.