Stocks continued to firm Thursday, extending Wednesday's late momentum, as steady interest rates helped sow a bullish tone ahead of tomorrow's reading on February employment. Index futures recently showed the S&P 500 trading 3 points above fair value, while the Nasdaq 100 was set for a 7-point jump. The 10-year Treasury note was down 1/32 in price to yield 4.73%, while the dollar fell against the yen and euro. The yen rose after the Bank of Japan signaled its campaign of deflation-fighting, zero-percent interest rates will be gradually undone through open-market operations over the next several months. The dollar was also hit by concerns that a government report Thursday will show a widening of the U.S. trade deficit for January. On Friday, the Labor Department is expected to say the U.S. economy added 210,000 jobs last month while the unemployment rate held steady at 4.7%. Traders are mainly worried about a stronger jobs number that could spur the Federal Reserve into hiking interest rates past its next two meetings on March 28 and May 10. Oil, whose 2% decline Wednesday helped lift the Dow Jones Industrial Average to a 25-point gain, was firming as Iran continued to warn the West against economic sanctions over its nuclear program. Crude for April delivery was recently up 33 cents to $60.35 a barrel. Overseas stocks were higher, with London's FTSE 100 recently adding 0.6% to 5845 and Germany's Xetra DAX adding 0.9% to 5724. In Asia, Japan's Nikkei surged 2.6% to 16,037 despite the monetary pronouncements, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 0.1% to 15,510. Among stocks, shares of Biogen-Idec ( BIIB) and Elan ( ELN) will remain in the spotlight after a Food and Drug Administration panel recommended Wednesday that their Tysabri treatment for multiple sclerosis be allowed back on the market. Both shares were halted during the advisory session. Elan resumed trading 30 minutes before Wednesday's close and promptly surged 25%. Biogen traded in the after-hours session, jumping more than 8% to just under $50. To view David Peltier's video take on today's premarket action,
click here .
Clothing retailer Urban Outfitters ( URBN) said fourth-quarter earnings rose 31% from a year ago to $35.6 million, or 21 cents a share, matching estimates. Sales rose 27% to $318.6 million, also in line with forecasts. Google ( GOOG) reportedly has agreed to pay $90 million to settle allegations it overcharged advertisers targeted by click fraud. The proposed settlement still needs court approval. Yahoo ( YHOO), which was also named in the suit, has vowed to fight the charges. Tivo ( TIVO) said its fourth-quarter loss narrowed 42% to $19.5 million, or 23 cents a share, while sales rose to $47 million from $34.2 million a year ago. Analysts were expecting a loss of 23 cents a share on sales of $46.4 million.