New York - US stock index futures edged slightly higher on Thursday as investors continued to digest the latest out of the crisis in Ukraine and as they looked ahead to data on US fourth-quarter economic growth.
Equities have been volatile this week, driven by any sign of easing or increasing tension in the biggest conflict between Russia and the United States since the Cold War.
File image. Credit: THE PHOTO HOLIC
While the market was supported by several economic indicators that pointed to improving conditions, investors used the uncertainty as an opportunity to take profits in some of the market's biggest outperformers, especially in the technology and biotech sectors.
On Wednesday, the US and the European Union agreed to work together to prepare possible tougher economic sanctions in response to Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea territory, including on the energy sector.
While Western leaders earlier agreed to hold off on new sanctions unless Moscow takes further destabilising actions in the region, investors are concerned about the potential fallout to prolonged conflict.
Citigroup Inc slumped 4.7 percent to $47.80 in premarket trading a day after the Federal Reserve rejected the bank's plans to buy back $6.4 billion of shares and boost dividends, saying the bank wasn't sufficiently prepared to handle a potential financial crisis.
A source close to the matter told Reuters that Citi officials had not expected the rejection.
Four other banks also had their plans rejected, including Zions Bancorp and the US units of HSBC, RBS and Santander.
Investors are looking ahead to a final read on gross domestic product, which is seen showing a 2.7 percent expansion in the fourth quarter, up from the previous read of 2.4 percent.
The GDP data is due at 8:30 a.m. (14:30 SA time), as are weekly jobless claims, which are expected to have risen by 5,000 to 325,000 in the latest week.
At 10 a.m., pending home sales data will be released.
Sales are seen as having held steady in February.
S&P 500 futures rose 4.8 points and were above fair value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the contract.
Dow Jones industrial average futures added 6 points and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 7.25 points.
In Ukraine, the country won a $27-billion international financial lifeline from the International Monetary Fund, rushed through in the wake of Russia's annexation of Crimea, as Moscow's economy minister spoke of the cost of military action in its former Soviet neighbors.
The credit is in return for tough economic reforms that will unlock further aid from the European Union, the United States and other lenders over two years.
In company news, Bank of America agreed to pay $9.3 billion to settle claims that it sold Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac faulty mortgage bonds, helping the bank to end one of the largest legal headaches it still faced from the financial crisis.
Yum Brands Inc, which has heavy exposure to China, said its KFC chain is planning an overhaul of its China menu and launching a publicity drive as it struggles to emerge from the shadow of a food safety scare in 2012.
Cloud-based payroll processor TriNet Group Inc said it priced its initial public offering at $16 per share, valuing the company at about $1.09 billion.
The stock will begin trading on Thursday, a day after King Digital Entertainment Plc slumped in its trading debut.
Shares of King rose 2.5 percent to $19.45 in premarket trading. - Reuters