Stock futures mixed after jobs, retail sales

NEW YORK (AP) ? U.S. stock futures were mixed Thursday after fewer people applied for unemployment benefits and retailers reported strong sales in August.

The Labor Department said that first-time claims for unemployment benefits fell to 409,000 last week. That’s the first decline in three weeks, but it’s still above levels considered healthy.

Economists say applications need to consistently fall below 375,000 to indicate that the job market is growing. They haven’t been that low since February.

A separate report showed that worker productivity fell this spring at a faster rate than previously estimated. A drop in productivity for a sustained period could pose a threat to the country’s economic recovery.

About 45 minutes before the opening bell, Dow Jones industrial average futures are up 6 points, or 0.1 percent, at 11,609.

Standard & Poor’s 500 index futures are down less than a point at 1,218. Nasdaq 100 index futures are up 4, or 0.2 percent, at 2,245.

Retailers rose in premarket trading after several companies reported a big increase in revenue in August, an important month for back-to-school shopping.

Target Corp. and Macy’s Inc. both posted sales gains that beat Wall Street expectations. Target rose 1 percent in premarket trading, while Macy’s rose 2 percent.

Gap Inc. posted a bigger-than-expected drop. It fell nearly 5 percent ahead of the opening.

Many investors are looking toward a report on manufacturing, due out at 10 a.m.

Economists forecast that manufacturing activity fell in August for the first time in more than two years. That’s a worrisome sign because manufacturing has been one of the strongest parts of the economy since the recession ended.