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Stock Futures Slide, Treasuries Soar

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NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Stock futures were falling and Treasuries were soaring Thursday as investor sentiment dampened on downbeat economic growth numbers from the eurozone and Japan, and as traders awaited options expiration day Friday.

Stocks pared losses a bit after data showed a decline in U.S. initial and continuing jobless claims.

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were sliding 40 points, or 50.70 points below fair value, at 13,918. Futures for the S&P 500 were down 3.25 points, or 1.73 points below fair value, at 1514. Futures for the Nasdaq were falling 7.50 points, or 2.78 points above fair value, at 2762.

JJ Kinahan, chief derivatives strategist at TD Ameritrade, said he thinks one of the things that options traders will most assuredly be paying attention to this week is options expiration day on Friday.

"We still do get some movement (particularly in underlying indexes such as SPX) on expiration Thursday and Friday so that is something to definitely watch," said Kinahan. He added that the 1525 level in the SPX is where traders will start to see resistance and the market may have trouble climbing through. He noted that the SPX was positive Wednesday with a positive VIX and he did see traders purchasing options with the thought that they could see a temporary breather in the S&P over the next two days.

European markets were retreating after Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union, said flash estimates show that gross domestic product fell by 0.6% in the euro area during the fourth quarter of 2012 compared with the previous quarter..

The FTSE in London was falling 0.76% and the DAX in Frankfurt was declining 1.15%.

"The weakness in Q4 ... reflects a number of special or calendar related factors that may quickly be reversed," said Michel Martinez, an economist at Societe Generale.

Martinez said that much of the decline appeared to be related to the impact of the three-point VAT increase in Spain at the start of September, which resulted in "consumption switching effects" between the third and fourth quarters that were felt across Europe particularly in the car sector.

Martinez said the decline in Italy in particular was especially weak and probably continues to reflect the weakness in real disposable income which Martinez estimated declined by around 5% year-over-year in the fourth quarter. Elsewhere, poor weather in December also had a pronounced affect on construction, especially in Germany, the economist added.

Major U.S. stock averages closed mixed Wednesday. U.S. retail sales in January, released Wednesday, came in as expected.

"As the retail sales numbers came in as expected, this is an important measure of things and as it is released weekly allows for extra scrutiny," said Kinahan. The other economic number left to look at will be the consumer sentiment index on Friday to see if it falls in line with retail sales or paints a "scary picture," he added.