US stock futures volatile after another big drop

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NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stock futures turned mixed after swinging widely Thursday, as European stock markets fell and a day after another big drop on Wall Street.

Worries have focused on the health of European banks, particularly those in France, this week. The head of France’s central bank said Thursday that the country’s banks are solid and blamed “unfounded rumors” for big drops in their stocks. The French CAC 40 stock index fell 2.3 percent.

Investors worry that Europe’s debt problems could hurt the banks that own European government bonds. Because of how intertwined the global financial system is, pain for European banks could lead to more trouble for the U.S. banking industry and economy.

About 30 minutes ahead of the opening, Dow Jones industrial average futures rose 4 points to 10,729. S&P 500 index futures fell 1.80, or 0.2 percent, to 1,121.70. Nasdaq 100 futures rose 6 , or 0.3 percent, to 2,091.

Stock futures are not always a reliable indicator of how the market will open.

The number of Americans filing for jobless benefits for the first time fell below 400,000 for the first time in four months. That could be a sign that the labor market is slowly improving after job growth slowed to an average of 72,000 in May, June and July. In the previous three months, employers added an average of 215,000 jobs per month.

Cisco Systems Inc., considered a bellwether for the technology industry, reported profit for its latest quarter that topped analysts’ expectations. It also said revenue may grow more quickly this quarter than analysts were anticipating. Cisco rose 12.2 percent in premarket trading.

News Corp., the media conglomerate that owns Fox News, rose 4.2 percent ahead of the bell. It also reported earnings late Wednesday that were better than analysts expected.

Gold prices fell $7.70 per ounce to $1,776.60. CME Group raised the amount of money that investors must put up to buy a gold contract on its COMEX exchange by 22 percent late Wednesday, driving prices off all-time highs above $1,800 per ounce as some investors were forced out.

The Dow on Wednesday plunged 519.83 points on worries about Europe’s debt problems and the weak economy. It was the third straight day that the Dow moved more than 400 points, either up or down. That hasn’t happened since November 2008.