US stock futures on global economic worries


NEW YORK (AP) -- Stock futures slipped Thursday as financial turmoil gripped Spain and worries persisted about slower growth in China.

Dow Jones industrial futures fell 43 points to 13,010 and the Standard & Poor's 500 futures slid 5.5 points to 1,394.7. The Nasdaq composite futures fell 9.25 points to 2,758.75.

Thousands of protesters flooded the streets of Madrid on Thursday and there were clashes with police a day before massive spending cuts and tax hikes are expected to be revealed.

A national strike began in Spain just after midnight. Unions are challenging a conservative government not yet 100 days old. They are protesting changes to labor market rules long regarded as among Europe's most rigid.

Spain's unemployment is nearly 23 percent, the highest among the 17 countries that use the euro.

In Europe, Britain's FTSE 100 fell 0.7 percent to 5,766 and Germany's DAX lost 1.2 percent to 6,916. France's CAC-40 slipped 1 percent to 3,397. The euro fell 0.3 percent to $1.3279.

Investors in the U.S. and in Europe are also looking at events in Asia, where there are signs of a slowdown in China, a nation that weathered the global financial crises perhaps better than any other.

Weak global consumption and the rising costs for labor, energy and commodities are finally starting to drag on the Chinese economy.

However, the U.S. Labor Department reported Thursday that the number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits dropped last week, another sign that the domestic job market is growing stronger.

Weekly unemployment benefit applications fell 5,000 to a seasonally adjusted 359,000. That's the smallest number of applicants since April 2008. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, declined to 365,000.

When unemployment benefit applications drop consistently below 375,000, it usually signals that hiring is strong enough to lower the unemployment rate. The unemployment rate is now hovering around 8.3 percent, the lowest it has been in three years.

The government confirmed Thursday that the U.S. economy grew 3 percent in final quarter of 2011 -- it was the third and final estimate. But economists expect growth likely slowed in the current quarter as businesses held back on restocking their shelves.