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U.S. stocks were poised to follow overseas markets lower Thursday, after China reported a surprise trade deficit and Spain's credit rating was lowered one notch.
A wider U.S. trade gap and a slightly worse-than-expected jobless claims report pressured futures but analysts expect that to ease as investors digest the data.
The U.S. trade balance for January widened to $46.3 billion, a five-month high. This was much wider than the $41.5 billion gap forecast, according to a consensus estimate.
The U.S. Department of Labor released the latest weekly initial unemployment claims data, which totaled 397,000. Economists expected the number of people filing for first-time benefits to have risen to 382,000 last week from 368,000 the previous week.
In addition, the European debt crisis has returned to the forefront this week, with Moody's lowering Spain's credit rating Thursday, after downgrading Greece earlier this week. Moody's cut Spain's government bond rating to Aa2 with a negative outlook from Aa1, and said further downgrades are possible.
China reported a $7.3 billion trade deficit in February, as imports soared and exports rose only slightly. Government officials attributed the cooling exports to Chinese New Year, when the country's manufacturing output slowed dramatically.
Companies: Starbucks (SBUX) and Green Mountain Coffee (GMCR) announced a deal that will put Starbucks coffee into Green Mountain's K-Cup single-cup brewing packets.
Shares of Green Mountain were up 9% in premarket trading, Starbucks stock was up more than 1% on the deal.
Hospital chain HCA (HCA) raised its public offering to 126.2 million shares at a price of $30 per share, according to published reports. It is considered to be the largest private-equity backed IPO in U.S. history, according to Renaissance Capital, raising an estimated $3.8 billion for both the company and existing shareholders.
Oil for April delivery slipped $1.02 to $103.36 a barrel.
Gold futures for April delivery fell $10.10 to $1,419.50 an ounce.
The price on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury rose, pushing the yield down to 3.46% from 3.47% late Wednesday.
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