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Stock Market Today: Strong Jobs Numbers Cap Week of Healthy Economic Data

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Markets are looking to gain Thursday, driven by stronger-than-expected nonfarm payrolls data, a falling unemployment rate and a narrowing international trade gap.

The U.S. added 288,000 nonfarm payroll jobs in June, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, exceeding analysts' estimates for a 215,000 increase. May numbers were also revised up to 224,000 from a previously reported 217,000. The unemployment rate fell to 6.1%. Economists expected the rate to remain steady at 6.3%.

The latest release paints a better-than-expected picture of the U.S. labor market. A day earlier, hopes were boosted after ADP data showed higher-than-expected payroll growth in the private employment sector, up 281,000 jobs in June from 180,000 in May and above economists' estimates of 205,000. The reading indicated companies had engaged in the most hiring in more than a year.

The U.S. international trade gap narrowed to $44.4 billion from $47.2 billion a month earlier. Economists had expected $45 billion.

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped 0.11% to 16,917, the S&P 500 gained 0.14% to 1,970.5, and the Nasdaq spiked 0.26% to 3,899.75.

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Markets were little moved over Wednesday's session as Wall Street digested data on payrolls and factory orders. The Dow made moves higher, but is yet to hit the 17,000-level. However, as Wells Fargo analyst Scott L. Wren notes, this level is less important from a technical trading level and more of psychological significance.

European markets surged ahead of the European Central Bank's monetary policy meeting on Thursday. Economists expect the ECB to keep interest rates unchanged. However, Markit's Eurozone PMI measure dropped to 52.8 in June from 53.5 in May, marking a six-month low.

Lululemon (LULU) shares are 3.6% higher before the bell after The Wall Street Journal reported the yogawear company is reportedly considering a buyout. 

American Apparel (APP) shares are gaining 9.6% to 91 cents after ousted CEO Dov Charney surrendered his stake and voting rights to firm Standard General. The American Apparel board had refused to negotiate with Charney in his attempts to regain control, but have showed willingness to speak with Standard General.

Paramount Group, one of the largest private real estate owners in the U.S., has hired Bank of America  (BAC) to discuss strategic moves, including a possible IPO, reports Reuters. The float could value the company as high as $15 billion.

U.S. markets will close at 1 p.m. EDT Thursday ahead of the Independence Day holiday Friday. Markets will remain closed for the public holiday and resume as normal Monday.

--Written by Keris Alison Lahiff in New York.

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