Stock Market Today: Futures Rise as Markets Anticipate a Dovish Yellen

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- U.S. stock futures rose Thursday as investors awaited Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen's speech on Friday at the annual gathering of central bankers in Jackson Hole, Wyo. The event kicks off on Thursday and ends on Saturday.

The markets were brushing off the Federal Reserve's release of what was thought by many to be a more hawkish-than-expected set of July meeting minutes, rising as they sustained the momentum of the past six days and on expectations that Yellen will emphasize the importance of sticking to an accommodative interest rate policy. Economists expect that she'll say it's not necessary right now to expedite the reversal of monetary policy as inflation appears to be easing and wage growth remains muted.

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A number of economic releases on Thursday morning could provide more color heading into Yellen's speech. The government reported ahead of the open that initial jobless claims for last week arrived below expectations at 298,000 vs. the 300,000 consensus estimate.

Data Thursday will also include the August Markit PMI "Flash" Manufacturing Index scheduled for 9:45 a.m. EDT, and July existing home sales, results from the August Philadelphia Fed Business Outlook Survey, and the Conference Board's Index of Leading Indicators for July all at 10 a.m.

In top corporate news Thursday, Bank of America's (BAC) much-anticipated settlement with the U.S. Justice Department over fraudulent mortgage securities the bank sold to investors is less punitive than the $17 billion price tag suggests and doesn't address the wrongs it purports to remedy. Shares were up 0.84% to $15.65.

Sears (SHLD) was down 5.42% to $34 after announcing its ninth straight quarterly loss as it continues to battle weak sales.

Activist investor Carl Icahn has taken a stake of more than 8% in Hertz Global Holdings (HTZ) and may seek representation on the rental car company's board, as it works to resolve accounting restatements, missed earnings and a delayed spinoff of its equipment rental business. Hertz added on 0.89% to $30.60.

United Parcel Service (UPS) said some customers of The UPS Store may have had their credit and debit card information exposed by a computer virus found on systems at 51 stores in 24 states.

--By Andrea Tse in New York

Follow @AndreaTTse

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