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U.S. Stock Futures Little Changed on Jobless Claims, China Data

May 22 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. stock futures were little changed, following yesterday’s equity rally, as jobless claims rose in the latest week while a Chinese manufacturing gauge climbed to a five-month high.

Best Buy Co. and Sears Holdings Corp. lost more than 3.6 percent as quarterly sales slid. Williams-Sonoma Inc. added 5.5 percent after boosting its earnings forecast for the year. Hess Corp. jumped 1.9 percent after agreeing to sell its gasoline stations and retail business to Marathon Petroleum Corp.

Futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index expiring in June gained less than 0.1 percent to 1,885.3 at 8:35 a.m. in New York. Dow Jones Industrial Average contracts added 5 points, or less than 0.1 percent, to 16,504 today. Futures on the Nasdaq 100 Index increased less than 0.1 percent.

“Things are starting to look a little tired,” Frances Hudson, a strategist at Standard Life Investments Ltd., which oversees $294 billion, said by telephone from Edinburgh. “The mixed picture in earnings gives you a sense of that, while on the macro side, the economy does seem to be improving, although at a very slow pace. You need to discriminate between companies. We’re not in an environment where a rising tide lifts all boats.”

The S&P 500 climbed 0.8 percent yesterday, erasing the previous day’s declines, as Federal Reserve policy makers said continued stimulus doesn’t risk fueling a jump in the inflation rate. Central bank policy makers said last month the economy is showing signs of picking up and the job market is improving. The central bank pared its monthly asset buying to $45 billion in April, its fourth straight $10 billion cut, and said further reductions in measured steps are likely.

Three rounds of bond purchases by the Fed have helped send the S&P 500 up as much as 180 percent from a 12-year low in 2009. The benchmark index is 0.5 percent below an all-time high of 1,897.45 reached last week.

Economic Data

Jobless claims increased by 28,000 to 326,000 in the week ended May 17, after 298,000 filings a week earlier that were higher than initially reported, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington. The median forecast of 50 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for a rise to 310,000.

Separate data at 9:45 a.m. may show a preliminary reading for a manufacturing index increased in May from last month, while a release at 10 a.m. will probably show existing home sales rose in April from a month earlier.

Global equities gained today as a preliminary purchasing managers’ index in China from HSBC Holdings Plc and Markit Economics increased to 49.7 in May, a five-month high. That exceeded the 48.3 median estimate of analysts surveyed by Bloomberg News. April’s final reading was 48.1. Readings below 50 signal contraction.

Williams-Sonoma

Williams-Sonoma climbed 5.5 percent to $67.25. The seller of cookware and home furnishings raised its full-year earnings forecast to as much as $3.17 a share, after earlier predicting no more than $3.15. The San Francisco-based company also reported first-quarter profit of 48 cents a share, exceeding the 44-cent analyst projection.

Hess jumped 1.9 percent to $90.99. Marathon Petroleum agreed to acquire the company’s gasoline stations and retail business for a total of $2.87 billion, expanding its footprint to 23 states from nine.

Sears Holdings slid 3.6 percent to $35.25. The retailer controlled by billionaire hedge-fund manager Edward Lampert posted a wider first-quarter loss amid a sales decline that’s stretched into its seventh year. Net loss in the three months through May 3 expanded to $402 million from a loss of $279 million a year earlier. Revenue fell 6.8 percent to $7.88 billion.

Best Buy

Best Buy declined 4.1 percent to $24.30. The consumer electronics retailer said total revenue fell 3.3 percent to $9.04 billion in the quarter ended May 3. That marked the ninth straight quarterly drop and trailed analysts’ $9.22 billion average estimate.

Keurig Green Mountain Inc. lost 0.8 percent to $112.85. Roth Capital Partners LLC reduced its rating on the maker of home-brewing machines for coffee to neutral, similar to hold, from buy.

Activision Blizzard Inc. dropped 0.7 percent to $20.73 after saying that Vivendi SA is selling half of its remaining stake in the video-gamer maker in an offering valued at more than $850 million.

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