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Stock Futures Turn Higher as U.S. Expands, Europe Cuts Rates

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- A lot of good news today for those who argue that the U.S. economy is showing signs of improvement, and that eventually growth can proceed even as the Federal Reserve curbs its stimulus program.

U.S. stock futures were turning higher Thursday as data showed the U.S. economy grew more than expected in the third quarter while the European Central Bank cut its benchmark interest rate to stimulate growth and U.S. jobless claims fell.

U.S. third quarter gross domestic product rose 2.8%, according to an advanced estimate from the Bureau of Economic Analysis. That was above both the average economist estimate of 2% and the second quarter's 2.5% growth.

Futures for the S&P 500 were gaining 5.5 points, or 4.91 points above fair value, to 1,771. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were surging 69 points, or 62.12 points above fair value, to 15,752. Futures for the Nasdaq were popping 5 points, or 0.62 points above fair value, to 3,381.

The European Central Bank on Thursday slashed its benchmark interest rate to new record low of 0.25%, down from 0.5%, in a fight against deflation and weakness in the eurozone economy.

Initial jobless claims fell 9,000 to 336,000 in the week ending November 2, the Labor Department reported Thursday. Economists were expecting a slip to 335,000.

Thursday brings the consumer credit report for September as well, from the Federal Reserve at 3 p.m.

Must Read: U.S. Stocks Strengthen Prior to Economic Growth, Jobs Reports

Eyes were also on Twitter, which will begin trading Thursday on the New York Stock Exchange after its initial public offering was priced $26 a share. The San Francisco-based company sold $1.82 billion in shares, or just more than 12% of its outstanding stock, in an offering that gives the micro-blogging site a valuation of roughly $14.2 billion.Twitter will trade under symbol 'TWTR.'

In earnings, Whole Foods (WFM - Get Report)was plunging 9.03% to $58.60 after the natural and organic food supermarket chain cut its fiscal 2014 same-store sales guidance to a rise of 5.5% to 7%, down from the previous estimate of 6.5% to 8% amid a raft of price cuts in the face of stiff competition.  Whole Foods also cut its earnings outlook to a range of $1.65 to $1.69 a share from the prior expectation of $1.69 to $1.72.

The company reported fourth quarter earnings of 32 cents a share on revenue of $2.98 billion, versus the average analyst estimate of 31 cents a share on revenue of $3.04 billion.

At 1:30 p.m., New York Fed President William Dudley is expected to begin speaking at the Global Economic Policy Forum hosted by the New York University School of Law. Also, Fed Governor Jeremy Stein is slated to give a speech at the Chicago Fed's International Banking Conference on shadow banking at 9:10 a.m.

On Thursday, the Bank of England opted to keep in its benchmark interest rate at a record low of 0.5% and maintained its current economic stimulus program of 375 billion pounds or about $603 billion rather than inject additional stimulus to the economy.

The FTSE 100 in London was falling 0.23% while the DAX in Germany was up 0.01%. The Hong Kong Hang Seng settled down 0.68% while the Nikkei 225 in Japan fell 0.76%.

December oil futures were up 21 cents to $95.01 a barrel and December gold futures were off $2.70 to $1,315.10 an ounce.

The benchmark 10-year Treasury was up 1/32, diluting the yield to 2.643%.

--Written by Andrea Tse in New York

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