Stock Market Today: Pound Gains as Scots Vote on Independence

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- U.S. stock futures were indicating a higher open on Thursday, building upon the record gains of the prior session after the Federal Reserve pledged to hold down interest rates and after China's central bank cut short-term borrowing costs for banks.

The global markets were also keenly focused on developments in Scotland, where polling stations are open to take votes from potentially more than 4.2 million people on whether Scotland should remain in the United Kingdom or breakaway as an independent country. The polling places are expected to close at 10 p.m. Edinburgh, Scotland, time or 5 p.m. EDT.

TheStreet's Ruben Ramirez has more on what Scotland's independence could mean to economic activity in the region:


WATCH: More market update videos on TheStreet TV | More videos from Ruben Ramirez

The vote is expected to be a close one, with numerous economic and political implications. According to USA Today, Scottish independence would take with it "one-third of the United Kingdom's land mass, 8% of its population, about 10% of its tax revenue, and an incalculable amount of cultural and intellectual capital."

As the world watched the referendum closely, the British pound gained 0.56% against the U.S. dollar. The euro was up 0.08% vs. the greenback. Overall, the U.S. dollar index was down 0.09% against a basket of major currencies including the euro and pound.

The FTSE 100 in the U.K. was up 0.37%.

The People's Bank of China reduced interest rates on 14-day repurchase agreements by 20 basis points to 3.5%. This follows the PBOC's move earlier this week to use its standing lending-facility to boost liquidity in the country's five biggest banks by 500 billion yuan ($81 billion).

Dow Jones Industrial Average futures were up 38 points, or 40.15 points above fair value. S&P 500 futures rose 5.5 points, or 6.28 points over fair value. Nasdaq futures were up 12 points, or 13.03 points above fair value.

U.S. stocks rallied to record levels Wednesday after the Federal Reserve eased concerns that the central bank could initiate its first rate hike before the summer.

U.S. jobless claims fell 36,000 to a lower-than-expected 280,000 in the week of Sept. 13, the Labor Department reported before the market open. Housing starts for August dropped 14.4% to a seasonally adjusted annual pace of 956,000 vs. the 1.05% increase expected by economists.

Also included in the U.S. market calendar Thursday is the Philadelphia Fed's Business Outlook Survey for September at 10 a.m.

Stocks to watch include Oracle (ORCL) , which is expected by Wall Street to post fiscal first-quarter earnings of 64 cents a share on revenue of $8.78 billion.

A bug in Apple's (AAPL) new iOS 8 software for mobile devices is prompting the company to withhold apps that use a highly touted feature for keeping track of fitness and health data. Shares were up 0.47%.

Amazon.com (AMZN) introduced two new e-readers and new styles of its Kindle Fire HD tablet as part of a fall lineup of Kindle devices.

The SPDR Gold Trust (GLD) was up 0.16% and the United States Oil Fund (USO) was up 0.23% after U.S. rate hike fears subsided.

-- By Andrea Tse in New York

Follow @AndreaTTse

More from Markets

3 Things Investors Must Know for Monday

3 Things Investors Must Know for Monday

Street Stats: The Mid-Term Elections May Be a Rollercoaster Ride for Investors

Street Stats: The Mid-Term Elections May Be a Rollercoaster Ride for Investors

Apple and GE Switch Roles; Musk's Super Control of Tesla Explained -- ICYMI

Apple and GE Switch Roles; Musk's Super Control of Tesla Explained -- ICYMI

Trump May Be More to Blame For Higher Oil Prices Than OPEC

Trump May Be More to Blame For Higher Oil Prices Than OPEC

Dow Falls Over 200 Points as Apple's Slump Offsets Gains in General Electric

Dow Falls Over 200 Points as Apple's Slump Offsets Gains in General Electric