Stock Futures Rise as Jobless Claims Shrink

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- U.S. stock futures were gaining ground Thursday as investors cheered a better-than-expected report on the labor market and shrugged off Standard & Poor's two-notch downgrade of Spain's debt.

Moody's, which already has placed Spain on watch to be downgraded to junk status, will likely go next, according to Stephen Guilfoyle, U.S. economist at Meridian Equity Partners.

"The perception ... is that this or these downgrades make it that much easier for Spain to ask for the help they need when their huge debt bill comes due in about 10 days," said Guilfoyle. "By Spain asking for help, the ESM can then purchase Spanish sovereign debt in the primary market, and the ECB can then activate their OMT program to buy said debt in the secondary market. The provided liquidity will take the pressure off of the throat of Spain, at least for now, kicking that proverbial can a much further ways down that road."

Market sentiment also got an early boost with Citigroup strategists raising their recommendation on U.S. equities to overweight and calling for a global rally through the end of 2013, citing a combination of strong earnings per share momentum and aggressive central bank stimulus plans.

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were up 51 points, or 45.03 points above fair value, at 13,319. Futures for the S&P 500 were up 7.4 points, 6.64 points above fair value, at 1433. Futures for the Nasdaq were rising 16.75 points, or 17.26 points above fair value, at 2739.

The Labor Department said Thursday that initial jobless claims in the week ended Oct. 6 fell 30,000 to 339,000 from the previous week's upwardly revised 369,000.

The four-week moving average was 364,000, a decrease of 11,500 from the prior week's average of 375,500.

Continuing claims for the week ended Sept. 29 were 3.273 million, a decrease of 15,000 from the preceding week's upwardly revised 3.288 million.

Economists, on average, predicted initial jobless claims of 370,000 and continuing claims of 3.275 million.

The Census Bureau reported that the U.S. trade deficit widened to $44.22 billion in August from $42.47 billion in July. Economists were expecting a U.S. trade deficit of $44 billion.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics said that U.S. import prices rose 1.1% in September versus 1.1% in August, and that export prices increased 0.8% in September compared with 1% in August.

The FTSE 100 in London was up 0.46% and the DAX in Germany was higher by 0.66% Thursday. The Nikkei Average in Tokyo closed down 0.58% and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong finished up 0.38%.

November crude oil futures were rising 62 cents at $91.87 a barrel. December gold futures were adding $5.80 at $1,770.90 an ounce.

The benchmark 10-year Treasury was down 4/32, lifting the yield to 1.693%. The dollar was up 0.02%, according to the dollar index.

In corporate news, Japan's Softbank is reportedly in talks to buy Sprint ( S) for more than 1.5 trillion yen ($19 billion).

JPMorgan Chase's ( JPM) chief financial officer, Douglas Braunstein, is expected to

step down over the next two quarters and is likely to move into a different job at the bank, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing people close to the company.

Caterpillar ( CAT) was cut to sector perform from outperform at RBC Capital, whose analysts pointed to high inventory levels for both the company and the earth-moving equipment industry as a whole, and sluggishness in Europe and China.

Ruby Tuesday ( RT), the restaurant operator, reported an

in-line profit for its fiscal first quarter on Wednesday but gave an outlook that hints at some downside to Wall Street expectations for the full year.

Hewlett-Packard's ( HPQ ) position as the top seller of personal computers has come to an end with Lenovo as the new leader, according to Gartner figures.

Alaska Air ( ALK) announced Thursday an agreement to buy 50 Boeing ( BA) 737 aircraft with the ability to purchase an additional 62 aircraft through options and purchase rights.

Soft drink giant Coca-Cola ( KO) is reportedly is in talks to invest around $10 million in subscription music-streaming service Spotify .

Walt Disney ( DIS) is facing a lawsuit by Stan Lee Media over rights to Marvel characters such as Spider-Man and Iron Man.

--Written by Andrea Tse in New York.

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