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Stock Futures Hold Gains After Jobless Claims

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Stock futures were advancing Thursday after the release of a basket of economic reports including weekly jobless claims and the Producer Price Index.

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were rising 23 points, or 37.72 points above fair value, at 14,421. The blue-chip index on Wednesday booked a ninth-straight record closing high after a better-than-expected retail sales report for February.

Futures for the S&P 500 were up 4.25 points, or 6.03 points above fair value, at 1,554.25. The index, which settled up 0.13% to 1,554.52 on Wednesday, continues to climb closer to its record closing level of 1,565.15 reached in October 2007.

Futures for the Nasdaq were up 11.5 points, or 12.92 points above fair value, at 2,805.

Paul Pagnato, the Washington D.C.-based managing director and partner at Hightower's Pagnato-Karp Group, which oversees more than $2 billion in client assets, said during an interview at TheStreet that the continuous rally in stocks "gives confidence that what our federal banking system and our government has done as well as the rest of the world's intervention, is working."

"So there's been a lot of questions marks over the last four or five years as to whether all these stimulus activities -- QE1, QE2, Operation Twist, QE infinity, QE4 -- whether they would actually work. And I think the answer is that it's working and it's actually worked much better than most people really anticipated."

The Labor Department reported Thursday that the number of people who have filed to receive unemployment insurance benefits fell by 10,000 to 332,000 in the week ended March 9 from an upwardly revised 342,000 the prior week. Economists, on average, were expecting initial jobless claims of 350,000.

Continuing claims fell 89,000 in the week ended March 2 to 3.024 million from an upwardly revised 3.113 million; they were forecast to come in at 3.1 million.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that its Producer Price Index rose 0.7% in February, as expected, up from a 0.2% rise in January.

The core PPI, which excludes both food and energy components, gained 0.2%, in line with expectations, after a 0.2% uptick the prior month.

The U.S. Commerce Department's Bureau of Economic Analysis said that the U.S. current account deficit for the fourth quarter narrowed to $110.4 billion from an upwardly-revised $112.4 billion in the third quarter. Economists were predicting a deficit of $112.8 billion.

Gold for April delivery was falling $1.60 to $1,586.80 an ounce at the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange, while April crude oil futures were rising 20 cents to $92.72 a barrel.

The benchmark 10-year Treasury was falling 7/32, raising the yield to 2.047%. The dollar was rising 0.07%, according to the U.S. dollar index.

The FTSE 100 in London was rising 0.27% and the DAX in Germany was ahead by 0.73% as European Union leaders began a two-day summit in Brussels. Discussions will include a bailout for Cyprus and easing austerity measures to battle the recession and rapidly increasing joblessness in southern Europe, which has become a much more immediate and urgent concern than the region's debt crisis.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index closed up 0.28% and Japan's Nikkei 225 rose 1.16%.

In corporate news, Amazon (AMZN) shares were sliding more than 1.5% after JPMorgan cut its view on the stock to "neutral" from "overweight" and lowered its price target to $300 from $333, explaining that the online retailer could see "more material deceleration" in gross profit growth to 31% in 2013.

Men's Wearhouse (MW) said Wednesday it was exploring the sale of its K&G operations, which sells clothing for men, women and children. Men's Wearhouse hired Jefferies & Co. to evaluate strategic alternatives for K&G. Shares were jumping more than 14% in premarket trading.

E-Trade Financial (ETFC) said Wednesday that its biggest shareholder, Citadel Equity Fund Ltd., plans to sell its entire position of 27.4 million shares in the company. Citadel owns a 9.6% stake in E-Trade. E-Trade shares were tumbling more than 5%.

Vera Bradley (VRA) forecast on Wednesday first-quarter earnings of 20 cents to 22 cents a share on sales of $120 million to $122 million. Analysts are calling for profit of 35 cents a share on sales of almost $132 million from the women's accessories company. Shares were slumping 6%.

SandRidge Energy (SD) shares were up more than 1% after the Oklahoma City-based oil and natural gas company said it reached an agreement with major shareholder TPG-Axon Capital whereby four directors nominated by TPG-Axon will be added to the board, effective immediately.

The deal could result in the ouster of CEO Tom Ward and a board dominated by l TPG-Axon.

-- Written by Andrea Tse in New York.



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

Stock quotes in this article: ^DJI, ^GSPC, ^IXIC, MW, ETFC, VRA, AMZN, SD 

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