NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- U.S. stock futures were extending earlier gains Thursday as investors cheered a decline in initial jobless claims ahead of appearances from a number of Federal Reserve speakers, and as the European Central Bank's latest rate decision indicated improved confidence in the economies of Europe.
- Dow Jones Industrial Average futures were rising 38 points, or 46.82 points above fair value, to 16,393. S&P 500 futures were adding 4.75 points, or 4.84 points above fair value, to 1,877.25. Nasdaq futures were up 6.5 points, or 8.16 points above fair value, to 3,734.8.
- Initial jobless claims fell 26,000 to 323,000 in the week of March 1 vs. the average economists' estimate of 335,000. The Labor Department said the four-week moving average that is indicative of longer-term trends decreased by 2,000 to 336,500.
- Fourth-quarter nonfarm productivity rose 1.8% compared with the 1.9% estimate, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported.
- January factory orders data will be out at 10 a.m. EST
- The raft of economic reports this morning precedes Friday's government job report for February, in which a gain of 150,000 to U.S. nonfarm payrolls is expected.
- New York Federal Reserve Bank President William Dudley was starting a breakfast conversation hosted by The Wall Street Journal in New York at 8:30 a.m. followed by Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank President Charles Plosser's talk on the economy and monetary policy in London at 1 p.m. EST. Atlanta Fed Bank President Dennis Lockhart gives his speech in Washington on the economic outlook at 6 p.m..
- The ECB, encouraged by the recent spate of improved economic data, opted to keep its benchmark interest rate unchanged at a record low of 0.25%. ECB President Mario Draghi's media briefing was to begin at 8:30 a.m.
- L Brands (LB) was poised for upbeat action after announcing a same-store sales increase of 2% for February, topping the 1.4% rise expected by analysts. Tiffany's (TIF) was adding on 1.25% after Citigroup upgraded the stock to "buy" from "neutral."
- Darden Restaurants (DRI) was up more than 1% after the company cancelled its analyst and investor meeting that was supposed to take place on March 28, and said it will instead set up individual meetings with investors and analysts to discuss actions to improve results at its restaurant chains.
- Costco (COST) was down 2.12% in premarket trading after saying that fiscal second-quarter earnings fell 15%, missing analysts' estimates, on lower profit from its international operations and weaker gross margins in non-foods merchandise. Sales rose 6% $25.76 billion; analysts estimated sales of $26.65 billion. Same-store sales rose 3% during the quarter.
- Staples (SPLS) was down more than 10% after posting fourth-quarter earnings from operations of 33 cents a share compared with 14 cents a share a year earlier, and said it planned to close 225 stores by 2015. Sales of $8.57 billion in the quarter fell from $6.57 billion a year earlier.
- U.S. markets closed flat Wednesday as investors digested disappointing U.S. services sector and private-payrolls reports and after the S&P 500 hit a new record during the previous session on easing tensions in Ukraine. Despite the sharp declines at the beginning of the week, major indices are in the green so far this week, with the Dow up 0.24%, the S&P up 0.77% and the Nasdaq up 1.16%.
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