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Stock Futures Up on Strong China Trade Data; Apple Gains

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Stock futures were pointing to a higher open on Wall Street Thursday as overseas markets and commodities rose on fresh buying action triggered by upbeat China trade data in what is expected to be a relatively light day for macro and big earnings headlines.

The world's second largest economy reported a strong rebound in exports in December, which reached a seven-month high. Imports in the period rose at a rate that was double what was anticipated.

The China news offset data showing a rise in U.S. weekly initial jobless claims.

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were rising 47 points, or 47.49 points above fair value, at 13,372. Futures for the S&P 500 were up 7.75 points, or 7.98 points above fair value, at 1463. Futures for the Nasdaq were up 18.75 points, or 19.35 points above fair value, at 2740.

Apple (AAPL - Get Report) CEO Tim Cook met with China Mobile's Chairman Xi Guohua on Thursday to discuss "matters of cooperation," according to Reuters.

Shares were popping more than 1.5%.

Earnings season will continue in earnest next week with many big-name bank earnings. Wells Fargo (WFC) will report this Friday.

Major U.S. stock averages recorded firm gains Wednesday after Alcoa (AA) ushered in the earnings season with stronger-than-expected revenue.

The Labor Department reported Thursday that initial jobless claims for the week ended Jan. 5 rose by 4,000 to 371,000, from the prior week's downwardly revised figure of 367,000. Economists were expecting claims to come in at 365,000

Continuing claims for the week ended Dec. 29 was at 3.109 million, a decrease of 127,000 from the preceding week's downwardly revised level of 3.236 million. On average, expectations were for continuing claims of 3.23 million.

The Census Bureau is forecast to say at 10 a.m. that wholesale inventories rose 0.3% in November after increasing 0.6% in October.

Overseas, the European Central Bank stood pat on interest rates for the sixth straight month Thursday, as expected. The Bank of England also met expectations by keeping interest rates unchanged.

After the ECB meeting, the central bank's president Mario Draghi was expected to be asked questions on the issue of negative deposit rates and the activation of the Outright Monetary Transactions bond-buying program.

Gold for February delivery was rising Thursday by $6.20 to $1,661.70 an ounce at the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange, while February crude oil contracts were up $1.30 at $94.40 a barrel.

The benchmark 10-year Treasury was sliding by 4/32, raising the yield to 1.878%. The dollar was down 0.23%, according to the U.S. dollar index .

The FTSE 100 in London was up by 0.11%, while the DAX in Germany was up 0.20% Thursday.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng closed ahead by 0.59% and the Nikkei Average in Japan tacked on 0.70%.

In corporate news, Tiffany (TIF - Get Report) shares were plunging more than 8.5% after the luxury goods retailer said its holiday sales growth was at the low-end of the company's expectations and that it now expects full-year earnings to be at the lower-end of its November forecast of $3.20 to $3.40 a share.

Comparable-store sales for the two-month period ended Dec. 31 were unchanged from the prior year.

Herbalife (HLF - Get Report) shares were advancing by more than 3% after Dan Loeb's Third Point Capital said on Wednesday it has bought nearly 9 million shares in the company, a move that cuts against a short position in the embattled supplements seller by Bill Ackman of Pershing Square Capital Management.

The disclosure by Third Point came a day before the supplements seller with a multi-level marketing arrangement will publicly respond to Ackman's short position, which was disclosed on Dec. 19, 2012.

Ruby Tuesday (RT) posted a fiscal second-quarter loss that was wider than analysts' expectations and said it plans to close up to 24 restaurant locations.

BlackRock (BLK), the U.S. asset manager and world's largest, agreed to buy Credit Suisse's (CS) exchange-traded fund business.

Credit Suisse shares were up more than 1.5%.

BlackRock said the purchase of the unit, which has $17.6 billion of client assets under management, is expected to close by the end of the second quarter. Terms of the deal weren't disclosed.

Sprint Nextel (S) is under no pressure to raise its $2 billion offer for Clearwire (CLWR) to beat a higher bid by Dish Network (DISH), Reuters reported, citing three sources close to the matter.

Sprint shares and Clearwire shares were unchanged.

PriceSmart (PSMT) posted fiscal first-quarter sales and profit that topped analysts' views.

Shares were jumping more than 5%.

AIG (AIG) said Wednesday it won't join a lawsuit to sue the federal government over the $182 billion bailout that saved the giant insurance company from collapse during the 2008 financial crisis.

Shares were down marginally.

-- Written by Andrea Tse in New York.

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

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