NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- U.S. stock futures traded higher Thursday after investors saw improvement in the latest jobless and manufacturing figures.

Futures for the

Dow Jones Industrial Average

were up 27 points, or 32 points above fair value, at 13,139. Futures for the

S&P 500

were up 3 points, or 3 points above fair value, at 1391. Futures for the


were up 8 points, or 7 points above fair value, at 2713.

More evidence of jobs market improvement was seen in the Labor Department's weekly read on initial jobless claims, which continued to hover near a four-year low. Jobless claims for the week ended March 10 fell 14,000 to 351,000. Economists expected 356,000, according to estimates by Thomson Reuters. The four-week moving average was unchanged.

Also before the bell, the Empire State Manufacturing Index for March came in at 20.21, above the forecast for 17.50. February saw a reading of 19.53.

A report from the Labor Department suggested that inflation may have ticked up temporarily due to rising gas prices. The producer price index for February rose 0.4% in February, about in line with expectations for a 0.5% rise, after a 0.1% gain in the prior month. Excluding food and gas costs, the core reading rose 0.2% as expected after a 0.4% gain in January. The consumer price index, released Friday, will give investors a better idea of inflation in the broader economy.

There's "a lot of data but not too much excitement," said David Ader, market strategist with CRT Capital Group. "Claims was close to expectations with upward revision and continues to portray a better labor picture.

The manufacturing report was stronger... with underlying concerns like the drop in new orders, shipments, prices received so

its more balanced then the headline gain suggests....

The producer price index is not one we pay a lot of heed to but we do note that the pipeline measures were friendly."

At 10 a.m., the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia is expected to report that its business index came in at a level of 12 in March after 10.2 in the prior month.

In Wednesday's session, buying momentum faded with the Dow and Nasdaq eking out fractional gains while the S&P 500 broke a five-day win streak. Stocks got a lift from gains in the financial sector following the

Federal Reserve's

"stress tests" of big U.S. banks.

On Thursday, Germany's DAX was up 0.27% while London's FTSE was down 0.07%. The Hong Kong Hang Seng closed up 0.21% while the Nikkei Average in Japan gained 0.72% overnight.

April oil futures were up 2 cents to $105.45. In other commodities, April gold futures were up $3.90 to $1646.80 an ounce.

The dollar index was 0.18% lower. The benchmark 10-year Treasury was down 11/32 pushing the yield to 2.311%.

-- Written by Chao Deng in New York


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