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Stock Futures Firm on ECB, Jobs Data

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- U.S. stock futures were gaining ground Thursday in step with the European markets after the European Central Bank opted to keep interest rates at record lows and maintained a dovish tone, and U.S. initial jobless claims came in less than expected.

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were rising 41 points, or 50.39 points above fair value, at 13,467. The blue-chip index has risen in two of the past three sessions.

Futures for the S&P 500 were up 5.1 points, or 4.96 points above fair value, at 1449. Futures for the Nasdaq were up 9.50 points, or 5.26 points above fair value, at 2817.

The FTSE 100 in London was up 0.14% and the DAX in Germany was higher by 0.03% on Thursday after the ECB decided to stand pat on its record-low benchmark interest rate. The Bank of England also held interest rates unchanged. Both moves were expected by economists.

ECB President Mario Draghi said at a press conference that he expects euro-area growth to stay weak but that downside risks could be held in check by effective actions.

The European markets also got a boost from easing Spanish borrowing costs after a smooth government bond auction.

The Nikkei Average in Japan closed up 0.89% and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong edged up 0.09%. The Bank of Japan's two-day policy meeting is underway and set to conclude on Friday.

The markets on Thursday also will be analyzing minutes of the last Federal Open Market Committee meeting, to be released at 2 p.m. EDT, for any hints among Fed members for additional easing going past the end of this year.

The Labor Department reported initial jobless claims for the week ended Sept. 29 of 367,000, an increase of 4,000 from the previous week's upwardly revised figure of 363,000. The four-week moving average was unchanged at 375,000.

Continuing claims for the week ended Sept. 22 were also unchanged from the prior week's upwardly revised level of 3.281 million.

On average, economists were expecting initial jobless claims of 370,000 and continuing claims of 3.271 million.

Outplacement consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas said that U.S.-based employers announced plans to cut 33,816 jobs from their payrolls in September, up 4.9% from a 20-month low of 32,239 job cuts in August.

At 10 a.m., the Census Bureau is expected to say that factory orders fell 6% in August after rising 2.8% in July.

U.S. stocks finished with mild gains Wednesday as better-than-expected services sector and payrolls data, preceding Friday's official September nonfarm payrolls report, offset a sharp decline in Dow component Hewlett-Packard (HPQ - Get Report).

November crude oil futures were up 65 cents at $88.79 a barrel. December gold futures were rising $11.10 at $1,790.90 an ounce.

The benchmark 10-year Treasury was down 6/32, boosting the yield to 1.635%. The greenback was down 0.31%, according to the dollar index.

In corporate news, Hewlett-Packard (HPQ - Get Report) shares took a hit Wednesday after CEO Meg Whitman told analysts that the tech giant would "continue to see a

broad-based profit decline across business units in 2013."

Costco Wholesale (COST - Get Report) said Thursday that same-store sales in September rose 6%. Total sales jumped 8% to $9.31 billion.

Applied Materials (AMAT) said it plans to cut its global work force by 900 to 1,300 positions, or 6% to 9%, as part of its restructuring program.

The chipmaker said it expects to record related charges of $180 million to $230 million.

Marriott International (MAR), the hotel operator, said Thursday that it earned $143 million, or 44 cents a share, in the three months ended in September; analysts were expecting profit of 40 cents.

Revenue totaled $2.79 billion, also beating the average analyst forecast of $2.65 billion, with revenue per available room rising 6% worldwide and 7% in North America from year-earlier levels.

Nuvasive (NUVA), the San Diego-based medical device maker, issued weak revenue guidance, saying it sees third-quarter revenue of $147 million vs. its prior projection for a flat performance from its second-quarter total of $154.4 million.

--Written by Andrea Tse in New York.

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Andrea Tse.

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