NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- U.S. stocks were poised to open slightly higher Thursday as investors digested key readings on inflation and employment that soothed some of the worries about the strength of the economy.
Dow Jones industrial average, S&P 500 and Nasdaq 100 futures were showing modest gains ahead of the opening bell.
Futures measure current index values against perceived future performance and offer an indication of how markets may open when trading begins.
Stocks closed higher Wednesday, with all three major indexes ending at an 18-month high, after U.S. and Japanese central banks moved to hold interest rates at historic lows, raising optimism about the economic recovery.
Wednesday's advance was also fueled by the Senate's passage of a $17 billion jobs bill, which President Obama is expected to sign into law Thursday.
Stocks have been moving higher over the last few weeks, with the Dow and S&P 500 rising in 14 of the last 15 sessions and the Nasdaq rising in 13 of the last 15 sessions through Wednesday's close.
But renewed concerns over Greek debt may stall the recent climb. Reports cite an official from the debt-ridden country as saying that Greece may have to turn to the International Monetary Fund for financial help amid doubts it will receive a bailout from the European Union.
"It's natural to see some softness in the market after so many consecutive days of gains," said Mark Luschini, chief investment strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott. "But the economic news has been decent lately so I won't be surprised to see the market drift higher and meander along."
Luschini added that although lingering concerns over Greek debt will continue to pressure equity markets until the IMF or European countries lend support, traders will also be weighing U.S. jobs and inflation data.
Economy: Investors will take in reports on inflation, jobless claims and a regional manufacturing index.
The Consumer Price Index (CPI) was unchanged in February after climbing 0.2% the month before, according to the Labor Deparment. A consensus of economists surveyed by Briefing.com had expected the CPI to edge up 0.1%. The so-called core CPI, which excludes food and energy prices, increased 0.1% after falling 0.1% in January. That was in line iwth expectations.
The government also reported that the number of Americans filing initial claims for jobless benefits fell last week to 457,000 from 462,000 the week before. Forecasts had called for a decline to 455,000.
After the market opens, the Conference Board will release its February report on leading economic indicators. The measure is expected to have risen 0.1%, following a 0.3% increase in January.
The Philadelphia Fed index, a regional reading of manufacturing activity, is forecast to have edged up to 18 in March from 17.6 last month.
Companies: FedEx (FDX, Fortune 500) reported a profit of $239 million for the third fiscal quarter, more than double the amount it earned a year earlier. The company beat Wall Street estimates with earnings per share of 76 cents, up from 31 cents a year earlier. Economists polled by Thomson Financial forecast earnings of 72 cents per share.
After the closing bell, smart phone maker Palm (PALM) is due to report. Analysts expect the company to report a loss of 42 cents per share, compared with a loss of 86 cents in the prior year.
World markets: Asian stocks ended mostly lower. Japan's Nikkei index slipped nearly 1%, and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong lost 0.3%.
In Europe, Britain's FTSE 100, France's CAC 40 and Germany's DAX were all modestly lower in early trading.
The dollar and commodities: The dollar gained against the euro and the pound on concerns about Greek debt. The buck was lower versus the yen.
Crude oil for April delivery slipped 47 cents to $82.74 a barrel, and the price of gold for April delivery eased $1.40 an ounce to $1,125.60.
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