NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Stock futures jumped Thursday after initial claims fell more than expected and 3Par ( PAR) reached a revised merger agreement with Dell ( DELL). Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were up by 52 points at 10,099 and were 57 points above fair value. Futures for the S&P 500 were ahead by 7 points at 1061 and were 8 points above fair value, and Nasdaq futures were higher by 11 points and were 12 points above fair value. Stocks ventured tentatively into positive territory late in Wednesday's session despite another round of weak data as the Department of Commerce reported a 12.4% drop in July new-home sales, a day after a report showed that July existing-home sales fell to the lowest levels in more than a decade. 3Par ( PAR) reached a revised merger agreement with Dell ( DELL) after Dell topped Hewlett-Packard's ( HPQ) per-share bid by 30 cents with an offer of $24.30 a share. The Labor Department said the number of people filing for jobless benefits declined by 31,000, to 473,000 in the week ended Aug. 21 after the previous week's upwardly revised level of 504,000. The drop is better than the 485,000 claims that economists had been looking for, according to Briefing.com.
Joe Miller, a favorite of Sarah Palin and the Tea Party movement, appeared close to taking Alaska's Republican Senate primary, driving out Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski. At 10:30 a.m. EDT, the Energy Information Administration will issue its weekly read on natural gas supplies. Analysts polled by Platts are expecting storage levels to add between 37 billion and 41 billion cubic feet in the week ended Aug. 20. Ahead of the report, October natural gas futures were trading nearly a penny higher at $3.90 per million British thermal units. Crude oil for October delivery was gaining 86 cents to trade at $73.38 a barrel a day after the EIA reported a larger-than-expected increase of 4.1 million barrels to inventories in the week ended Aug. 20.
Ford ( F) is moving further into Asia as it announced plans for eight new vehicles in India and a $350 million investment with partner Mazda in its Thailand pickup plant. The automaker said Asia will account for 70% of its global growth in the next decade. France's second-largest bank, Credit Agricole, posted second-quarter income that was nearly 89% higher at €379 million ($481 million), surpassing analysts' estimates. Quarterly revenue rose 20% to €5.47 billion. Strong performance in emerging markets drove Diageo's ( DEO) growth, the maker of Johnnie Walker whisky and Guinness beer said. The company narrowly missed estimates with full-year earnings that rose 1.5% to 1.63 billion pounds ($2.53 billion). Sales rose 2% to 9.78 billion pounds.
After the close of trading, retailer J. Crew ( JCG) is expected to report quarterly earnings of 46 cents a share. Enterprise software developers Micros Systems ( MCRS) and Novell ( NOVL) are projected to post profits of 41 cents a share and 7 cents a share, respectively, according to Briefing.com. Elsewhere in commodity markets, the December gold contract was ahead by $4.20, trading at $1,245.50 an ounce. The benchmark 10-year Treasury note was up by 11/32, diluting the yield to 2.502%.
Meanwhile, the dollar was trading lower against a basket of currencies, with the dollar index down by 0.4%. Overseas, Hong Kong's Hang Seng slipped 0.1%, while Japan's Nikkei gained 0.7%. The FTSE in London was adding 0.6%, and the DAX in Frankfurt was rising by 0.2%. --Written by Melinda Peer in New York.