S&P Points Higher as Jobless Claims Drop

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Stock futures were pointing to a higher open Thursday, signaling that the S&P 500 could add to the all-time high set Wednesday as weekly jobless claims declined, easing concerns about the U.S. labor market.

Futures for the S&P 500 were up 1 point, or 1.47 points above fair value, at 1,583.75 after the index shattered its intraday record of 1,576.09 set in October 2007. The Federal Reserve this week indicated it will maintain its asset buying program for the foreseeable future while Japan reasserted its aggressive monetary policies and Chinese imports jumped in March.

"The gain in equities is either saying QE is here to stay ... or that earnings season is going to be much, much better than expected. Maybe both," Dan Greenhaus, chief global strategist at the broker-dealer BTIG LLC in New York said in a note Wednesday evening.

Bed Bath & Beyond ( BBBY) was rising 2% to $66.81 in premarket trading after the housewares retailer fell in afterhours trading Wednesday after forecasting lower-than-expected current-quarter earnings and revenue as it continues be challenged by online rivals, a gravitation towards lower-margin merchandises, and a rise in coupon redemptions.

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were up 14 points, or 13.76 points above fair value, at 14,747. Futures for the Nasdaq were down 5.5 points, or 4.86 points below fair value, at 2,847.75

Among the 5% of S&P 500 companies that have announced results so far, nearly three-quarters have exceeded expectations, according to Thomson Reuters.

The Department of Labor reported that the number of U.S. residents filing for unemployment benefits fell by 42,000 to 346,000 in the week ended Apr. 6 from an upwardly-revised 388,000. Economists were expecting initial jobless claims to add up to 365,000.

The four-week moving average, which gives a better sense of the long-term trends, was 358,000, an increase of 3,000 from the previous week's revised average of 355,000.

The number of people continuing to collect jobless benefits dropped by 12,000 to 3.079 million during the week ending Mar. 30 from an upwardly-revised 3.091 million. Economists were expecting continuing claims of 3.066 million.

This set of jobs numbers arrives after a substantial slowdown in jobs growth reported last Friday and consecutive increases in jobless claims in the last few weeks.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics said that the price index for U.S. imports fell 0.5% in March, following increases of 0.6% in February and 0.5% in January led by a downturn in fuel prices, easing inflation concerns and stoking confidence that Federal Reserve policymakers still have more room to maneuver on stimulus.

The FTSE 100 in the U.K. was up 0.36% and the DAX in Germany was rising 0.55%. The Nikkei 225 in Japan closed up 1.96% Thursday, while the Hong Kong Hang Seng index settled up 0.3%.

Yum! Brands ( YUM) was down 2.34% to $65.20 after the fast-food restaurant operator, whose brands include KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, said Wednesday that same-store sales in China fell 13% in March from a year ago as the bird flu outbreak in the country hurts sales.

Microsoft ( MSFT) is developing a new lineup of its Surface tablets, including a 7-inch version expected to go into mass production later this year, people familiar with the company's plans told The Wall Street Journal. Shares were off 3.8% to $29.13 in premarket trading.

T-Mobile USA raised its bid for MetroPCS ( PCS) in what it called its "best and final offer." MetroPCS shares were down 1.04% to $11.44.

The benchmark 10-year Treasury was rising 3/32, diluting the yield to 1.798%. The dollar was down 0.31% to $ 82.28 according to the U.S. dollar index.

May crude oil futures were shedding 10 cents to $94.54 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Written by Andrea Tse in New York

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Andrea Tse.

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