NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Stock futures were slightly higher on Thursday as markets looked to begin a new quarter on better footing than the last.
S&P 500 futures were up 0.14%, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures climbed 0.2%, and Nasdaq futures added 0.28%.
Continuing unemployment claims hit a 15-year low of 2.191 million, down from 2.244 a week earlier, according to the Labor Department. The measure indicates that the labor market continues to tighten and that the monthly jobs number will meet healthy expectations.
The dip in continuing claims came even as the weekly measure of new filings for unemployment benefits increased. Weekly jobless claims, which tend to be a more volatile measure, rose by 10,000 to 277,000 in the week ended Sept. 26.
Trading has been unpredictable so far this week ahead of Friday's release of the jobs report for September. This release has taken on even more significance as Wall Street looks for signs U.S. economic strength is still intact after the Fed's decision to keep interest rates unchanged in September.
Economists expect 200,000 jobs to have been added to nonfarm payrolls in September, up from 173,000 in August. The unemployment rate is forecast to remain steady at 5.1%, while year-over-year growth in average hourly earnings is expected to climb to 2.4% from 2.2%.
"Such readings would not be enough to cause the Fed to become more introspective, but readings above those expected could complicate the debate," argued David Joy, chief market strategist at Ameriprise Financial, in a note.
Stocks ended their worst quarter in four years on Wednesday. Wall Street had suffered heavy losses over the quarter after the threat of a Chinese slowdown began to materialize and confidence in the U.S. economic recovery was undermined by the Federal Reserve's trigger-shy approach to monetary policy.
China's factory activity appeared to stabilize at a three-year low after months of sharper declines, fueling hope that a slowdown in the world's second-largest economy may have hit a bottom. The NBS Manufacturing PMI rose to 49.8 in September from 49.7 a month earlier, though remained in contraction. The Caixin manufacturing PMI inched higher to 47.2 from 47.
Wal-Mart (WMT) - Get Report shares rose more than 1% in premarket trading on reports the world's largest retailer is planning to lay off hundreds of workers at its Arkansas headquarters. The company recently increased the minimum wages of store workers.
Microsoft (MSFT) - Get Report and Google (GOOGL) - Get Report have agreed to dismiss all pending patent lawsuits against one another, including around 20 different lawsuits in Germany and the U.S. The lawsuits include patents for mobile phones an wireless networking technology. The two tech giants also said they would begin to collaborate on a number of patents.
Twitter (TWTR) - Get Report shares were slightly lower in premarket trading after spiking more than 5% on Wednesday. The social network had climbed on reports co-founder Jack Dorsey will assume the position of permanent CEO after acting as interim chief since June, according to Re/code. Former CEO Dick Costolo stepped down in early June.