By Barbara Kollmeyer, MarketWatch
MADRID (MarketWatch) — Stock futures were marginally lower on Thursday as investors took to the sidelines ahead of the European Central Bank meeting and the release of U.S. GDP growth data.
Europe will compete with the U.S. for investor attention on the economic front, as a much-awaited ECB meeting takes center stage. The central bank’s rate decision is due at 1:45 p.m. Frankfurt time, or 7:45 a.m. Eastern Time, with a news conference by ECB President Mario Draghi beginning at 8:30 a.m. Eastern. The Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee also meets, with its own interest-rate decision due at 12 noon local time, though no change is anticipated.
Economists’ views have been mixed on the potential for more policy easing from the ECB. More likely, the focus will be on the rhetoric at Draghi’s presser, if there is no change. Read: Don’t take your eye off the European Central Bank and Mario Draghi
Any euro-zone easing would give markets a boost, at least temporarily, said Adam Sarhan, chief executive at Sarhan Capital. But he believes market interest will quickly turn to the two key days of important U.S. data on tap, starting with the third-quarter gross domestic product reading due at 8:30 a.m. Eastern. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch predict the U.S. economy likely expanded by 2.3%, with 2.7% at the upper end of expectations and 1.7%, or even less, at the bottom. Read: What to watch for in Thursday’s GDP report
Though stocks may react to any big deviation in that GDP number, the “bigger story” is the nonfarm-payrolls report due Friday, said Sarhan. “The jobs report is the primary report that could sway sentiment one way or another,” he said.
Wall Street stocks finished mostly higher on Wednesday, with the Dow industrialsDJIA +0.82% notching up a closing high, with a gain of 128.66 points, or 0.8%, to end at 15,746.88. The S&P 500 SPX +0.43% closed up 7.52 points, or 0.4%, to end at 1,770.49.
In corporates, the buildup to Twitter’s TWTR 0.00% highly anticipated debut on the New York Stock Exchange continued. The microblogging site priced its offering at $26 a share, to raise as much as $2 billion, making it the second-biggest debut ever for an Internet company. Read: What Twitter is saying about that new offering price.
Shares of Whole Foods WFM -8.72% fell 8% in after-hours trading on Wednesday, after the high-end supermarket chain fell short of analysts’ revenue expectations. It cut its fiscal-year guidance, citing current sales trends.
Shares of Qualcomm Inc. QCOM -3.93% skidded as well in Wednesday’s late trade, after the wireless chipmaker posted an earnings jump, but gave a disappointing outlook. Read: Twitter, Whole Foods, Disney are stocks to watch
In overseas markets, Europe stocks treaded water ahead of those central-bank meetings, while the euro was choppy, but largely higher against the dollar. Asian stocks fell, with a drop for Toyota Motor Corp. TM +0.10% JP:7203 -1.26% weighing on Japan’s index after the auto maker posted disappointing results.
Oil prices pushed higher after weekly U.S. supply data exceeded market expectations.