US futures mixed as US data tempers early decline

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NEW YORK (AP) -- Encouraging economic news helped erase most of an early dip in U.S. stock market futures Thursday. The early decline reflected uncertainty on a Greek bailout.

The Labor Department said weekly applications for unemployment benefits dropped for the fourth time in five weeks, reaching their lowest point since March 2008.

The agency also said that a broad measure of wholesale inflation came in lower than expected. But excluding food and energy, the adjusted figure was above expectations.

Low inflation makes it easier for the Federal Reserve to keep the short-term interest rate it controls low. If there were signs that inflation was increasing rapidly, the Fed would likely raise rates.

Dow Jones industrial average futures reversed an earlier decline to gain a point to 12,764, while Standard & Poor's 500 futures were down 2.4 points to 1,339.80. Nasdaq Composite index futures slipped 0.75 points to 2,556.75.

European markets did not fare as well. The major indexes slid as worries escalated over the potential for a new bailout for Greece. Without a deal, Greece could default within a month.

In London, the FTSE 100 index was down 0.13 percent at 5,892.16. Germany's DAX fell 0.88 percent to 6,698.36. The CAC-40 in France was 0.59 percent lower at 3,370.44.

U.S. stocks to watch on Thursday include General Motors Co., which earlier reported its largest profit ever for 2011, just two years after it nearly collapsed. The automaker earned $7.6 billion for the year. Meanwhile, Duke Energy reported a 33 percent drop in its fourth quarter profit, reflecting mild temperatures and escalated costs for repairs due to storm damage.

Late Wednesday, hotel operator Marriott International Inc. said its fourth-quarter profit fell 18 percent due to costs associated with spinning off its timeshare business. And media company CBS Inc. reported a 31 percent spike in fourth-quarter earnings as it benefitted from licensing shows to online video companies, offsetting an advertising slowdown.