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Stock Futures Pare Gains After GDP Data

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Stock futures were paring gains Thursday after investors weighed a smaller-than-expected revision of fourth-quarter gross domestic product data against better-than-anticipated jobless claims numbers.

Futures continued to point higher though, even as the sequestration deadline in the U.S. loomed, amid indications of continued global central bank support.

"U.S. equity markets thus far have been resilient to political developments in Italy and looming federal spending sequestration, due to take effect on Friday," noted Bricklin Dwyer, an economist at BNP Paribas.

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were up 2 points, or 3.63 points above fair value, at 14,062. Futures for the S&P 500 were up 1.25 points, or 2.46 points above fair value, at 1517. Futures for the Nasdaq were up 4.5 points, or 4.34 points above fair value, at 2745.

Major U.S. stock averages surged Wednesday, with the Dow within striking distance from its all-time high, on a raft of good economic data and as Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke signaled ongoing support for accommodative monetary policies.

The Labor Department said initial jobless claims in the week ended Feb. 23 were 344,000, a decrease of 22,000 from the previous week's upwardly revised 366,000. The four-week moving average was 355,000, a decline of 6,750 from the previous week's 361,750.

Continuing claims in the week ended Feb. 16 were 3.074 million, a fall of 91,000 from the preceding week's upwardly revised level of 3.165 million.

Economists, on average, predicted initial jobless claims of 360,000 and continuing claims of 3.15 million.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis' second estimate on fourth-quarter gross domestic product was an increase of 0.1% versus a decrease of 0.1% in the previous estimate. Economists were expecting a revised increase of 0.5%.

At 9:45 a.m. EST, the Chicago PMI for February is expected to show a tick down to 54 from 55.6.

Fed Governor Sarah Bloom Raskin speaks at Atlanta Fed's Banking Outlook Conference at 12:30 p.m.

Overseas markets were mostly higher Thursday amid confidence that global central banks will continue to lend support to the economy. European Central Bank President Mario Draghi also said that he anticipates accommodative policies to continue.

The Nikkei Average in Japan finished ahead by 2.71% and the Hong Kong Hang Seng index finished up 1.96%. The FTSE 100 in London rose 0.29% and the DAX in Germany was up 0.51%.

Gold for April delivery was off $9.40 to $1,586.30 an ounce at the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange, while April crude oil futures were down 32 cents to $92.44 a barrel.

The benchmark 10-year Treasury was rising 6/32, diluting the yield to 1.882%. The dollar was rising 0.06%, according to the U.S. dollar index.

In corporate news, J.C. Penney's (JCP) fourth-quarter loss widened from a year earlier as sales plunged almost 30%. Shares were plunging more than 17% in premarket trading.

Groupon (GRPN), the daily deals company, missed Wall Street's fourth-quarter earnings estimates. Shares were plummeting more than 26%.

Sears (SHLD) posted fourth-quarter earnings of $1.12 a share on revenue of $12.26 billion as Sears' domestic comparable-store sales improved 0.8%. Analysts, on average, were expecting earnings of 98 cents a share on revenue of $11.77 billion. Shares were popping more than 2%.

Kohl's (KSS - Get Report) projected full-year earnings of $4.15 a share to $4.45 a share, below the consensus target of $4.56 a share, after posting fourth-quarter profit of $1.66 a share on revenue of $6.342 billion. Analysts, on average, expected fourth-quarter profit of $1.63 a share on revenue of $6.24 billion. Shares were tumbling nearly 4%.

The Securities and Exchange Commissioner has escalated an investigation into suspicious trades placed ahead of the $23 billion takeover of H. J. Heinz (HNZ), focusing on a complex derivative bet routed through London, The New York Times reported, citing two people briefed on the matter.

Wall Street expects software company Salesforce.com (CRM) to report quarterly earnings of 40 cents a share when it issues its results after the markets close Thursday. Shares were up marginally.

Molycorp (MCP - Get Report) shares were tumbling more than 7% after the company announced a delay in filing its 10-K report and its postponement of its fourth-quarter and full-year 2012 earnings call.

-- Written by Andrea Tse in New York

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

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