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US stock futures indicate steady market open

Written by: Staff
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LONDON, Apr 6 (Reuters) Wall Street is set for a flat start on Thursday, with drug stocks seen lower after a US jury issued a mixed verdict in Merck&Co's Vioxx trial.

By 1000 GMT, Dow Jones futures, Nasdaq futures and S&P futures indicated a sluggish market open.

Merck is expected to fall as the jury on Wednesday found that the company failed to warn Vioxx users of the pain killer's heart risks.

Merck shares fell 3 percent in after-hours trading.

The jury ordered Merck to pay a 77-year-old plaintiff at least .5 million in a decision that raises questions about the company's future defense of thousands of lawsuits filed over the medicine.

Bed Bath&Beyond Inc. will also be in focus after the home goods retailer reported forecast-beating earnings and its shares rose more than 5 percent in after-hours trading.

A rise in US energy stocks could, however, support the market as crude oil prices advanced 0.7 percent to .5 a barrel, extending Wednesday's gains.

US stocks rose on Wednesday, with the Nasdaq and S&P 500 indexes ending at 5-year highs as investors bought technology stocks after Apple Computer Inc. released software that could expand the number of users of its Mac computers.

Apple's shares shot up nearly 10 percent, their biggest one-day percentage gain since November 2004. Apple's gains increased demand for the shares of other technology companies, including chip maker Intel Corp., whose chips are used in Apple computers.

The Dow Jones industrial average gained 0.3 percent to end at 11,239.5 points, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index rallied 0.6 percent to 2,359.7 points.

REUTERS MP RAI2037

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