By Anora Mahmudova and Carla Mozee, MarketWatch
Employment cost index rises more than expected
NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- U.S. stock futures fell sharply on Thursday, as investors turned cautious after government data showed wages are ticking up as the economy and the employment situation continue to improve.
Weekly jobless claims rose by less than expected, however the employment cost index rose due to a larger-than-expected increase in wages. Many analysts watch for wage inflation as a precursor to inflation.
Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJU4) fell 123 points, or 0.7%, to 16,698. Futures for the S&P 500 index (SPU4) lost 15 points, or 0.8%, to 1,950, and those for the Nasdaq 100 index (NDU4) gave up 32 points, or 0.8%, to 3,935.
Investors will get financial updates from oil major Exxon Mobil and weekly labor-market data ahead of Friday's widely anticipated July jobs report.
Also in the spotlight is Argentina. Standard & Poor's Ratings Services declaring the country in selective default after talks aimed at a settlement between Argentina and holdout creditors fell apart late Wednesday.
"The markets seem to be digesting a lot of the data from [Wednesday] along with the Fed statement. Even though there is a good chance we'll see a revision to what was a surprisingly good Q2 GDP number, this does raise the specter of monetary tightening in less than a year," said Brenda Kelly, chief market strategist at IG, in emailed comments.
U.S. gross domestic product, released Wednesday, expanded by a stronger-than-expected 4%.Stocks had a choppy session Wednesday, but eked out slight gains after Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen appeared to soothe fears that the central bank might start raising interest rates sooner than anticipated.
U.S. Treasury prices sank in the wake of the growth data, and equities are feeling the pinch from the bond selloff that's left the yield on the 2-year note (2_YEAR) at its highest level since May 2011, said Kelly. Prices and yields move inversely.
Concerns about the health of Europe's banking sector may drag on Wall Street, as shares of Banco Espírito Santo SA in Lisbon sank as much as 50% after the Portuguese lender reported a record second-quarter loss. The loss came as the bank's troubled parent company, Espirito Santo International, found ways to use the bank to raise funds that are largely unrecoverable.
A reading on July business conditions in the Chicago area is due at 9:45 a.m. Eastern Time, and economists are looking for the Chicago PMI to rise to 63.5, from 62.6 in June.
Among individual stocks, Time Warner Cable Inc.'s (TWC) second-quarter results surpassed Wall Street's estimates.
DirecTV (DTV) said quarterly earnings rose to $1.59 a share, from $1.18 a share a year ago, boosted by its coverage of the FIFA World Cup in Brazil. The FactSet consensus was for per-share earnings of $1.54.
ConocoPhillips (COP) said quarterly earnings rose more than 1% on higher oil and gas production and average selling prices.
Exxon Mobil (XOM) is expected to report adjusted second-quarter earnings of $1.86 a share.
Avon (AVP) said second-quarter profit fell on lackluster sales, particularly in Latin America and North America.
Pharmaceutical distributor McKesson's (MCK) sales and adjusted earnings came in above expectations. The company also raised its full-year fiscal 2015 adjusted earnings outlook to between $10.50 and $10.90 a share. Wall Street is looking for $10.65 a share.
After the bell, Tesla Motors (TSLA) will release quarterly results.
Shares in Synchrony Financial begins trading Thursday after the giant initial public offering was priced at $23, the low end of expectations.
U.S.-listed shares of Nokia Oyj (NOK) may be active after Nokia Networks agreed to buy a part of Panasonic's wireless networks business for an undisclosed amount.
In the commodities market, crude-oil futures (CLU4) fell below $100 a barrel on bearish U.S. inventory data, while gold futures (GCQ4) turned lower.
European stocks fell, and Asian equities closed mixed, with Japan's Nikkei Average ending down by 0.2%.
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