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Stocks set to slip as investors digest data

Stocks are set to slip at Thursday’s open as investors digest data on economic growth and jobless claims.

The Labor Department said the number of Americans seeking U.S. unemployment benefits fell last week -- new evidence that the job market is strengthening.

Also, U.S. gross domestic product for the fourth quarter rose at a 3.0 percent annualized rate, unrevised from the earlier estimate.

European stocks were flat on Thursday, hovering around a three-week low as rallying mining shares offset losses in the energy sector, where Total extended its slide, hit by worries over a gas leak in the North Sea.

The Nikkei eased 0.7 percent to 10,114.79 as investors locked in profit from a meteoric January-March rally that is poised to be its best first-quarter performance in 24 years.

Roche Holding hiked its cash bid for U.S. gene sequencing company Illumina to $6.7 billion, the Swiss drugmaker said as it seeks to win over shareholders ahead of Illumina's annual general meeting next month.

News Corp boss Rupert Murdoch vowed to "hit back hard" against what his company president called baseless allegations from the BBC that a subsidiary ran a secret unit to promote piracy against pay-TV rivals.

Reuters contributed to this report.