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U.S. stocks were headed for a weak opening Thursday, as investors digest the latest reports on inflation, unemployment claims and regional manufacturing activity.
Meanwhile, anti-government protests in Bahrain turned violent Thursday, as the unrest that started in Tunisia and Egypt last month has spread across the region. But investors are not too concerned about geopolitical risks for now.
U.S. stocks finished at their highest level in more than two years Wednesday, propelled by a $20 billion merger in the pharmaceutical sector and a batch of solid corporate earnings.
Economy: The government's weekly report on the number of people filing for jobless benefits jumped to 410,000 for the week ended Feb. 12, which was close to expectations.
The consumer price index for January rose 0.4% month-to-month seasonally adjusted, compared to expectations of a 0.3% increase. The core CPI - which excludes food and energy prices - rose 0.2% month-to-month, compared to an expected increase of 0.1%.
Also on tap for the morning is the preliminary Philadelphia Fed index for February, a regional reading on manufacturing. The index is forecast to rise to 21.0, up from 19.3.
Companies: Shares of Dr. Pepper Snapple Group (DPS, Fortune 500) edged up in premarket trading, after the soft drink company reported an 11% increase in diluted quarterly earnings of 49 cents per share. The company said that net sales rose 4% in the quarter, to more than $1.4 billion.
Shares of Williams Partners (WMB, Fortune 500) jumped 13% in premarket trading, despite reporting quarterly net income of 29 cents per share - matching the year-ago quarter. The company raised its guidance for 2011-2012 to reflect higher commodity prices and the acquisition of Barnett Shale.
After the closing bell, Nordstrom (JWN, Fortune 500) is expected to post earnings per share of $1 on revenue of $2.82 billion.
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