Stocks poised to extend gains

By CNNMoney.com staff


NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- U.S. stocks were headed for a higher open Thursday, as investors digested the latest reading on jobless claims and the U.S. trade deficit.

Dow Jones industrial average (INDU), S&P 500 (SPX) and Nasdaq (COMP) futures were higher ahead of the opening bell, getting an extra boost after the release of the reports. Futures measure current index values against perceived future performance.

BWF Financial analyst Hamed Khorsand said the jobless claims number was a bigger driver than the trade figures because of intense focus on the job market.

"Even though employment is really a lagging indicator of the economy, it's gotten to a point where it's now setting the sentiment," he said.

Stocks closed higher Wednesday as worries about European banks eased, and investors welcomed President Obama's $350 billion jobs recovery plan.

All three major indexes started the month with a bang following a series of stronger-than-expected economic reports. This week, trading has been a bit shaky, with little on the docket to push stocks forward. All three major indexes have still managed to gain in four out of the five previous sessions.

But stocks may have a tough time holding those gains as investors remain wary about the economic outlook, said Chip Brian, president of financial analytics firm SmarTrend.

"[Obama's proposal] provided some near-term confidence, but overall, we're still seeing stagnation," said Brian. "Obama can pull a feather out of his hat and say 'we can do this and this,' but until we start realizing some of these economic benefits for growth, we've still got a large problem."

Economy: The Labor Department's weekly report on initial jobless claims showed that 451,000 first-time claims for unemployment benefits were filed in the week ended Sept. 4.This was significantly less that consensus forecast from Briefing.com of 470,000.

The latest figure was down 27,000 from an upwardly revised 478,000 in the previous week.

Also, the Commerce Department reported that the U.S. trade deficit slipped to $42.8 billion in July, sharply lower than the Briefing.com consensus forecast of a $47.3 billion deficit. It also marks a decline from the slightly revised deficit of $49.8 billion for the prior month.

World markets: European shares rose in early trading. The CAC 40 in France was 0.6% higher, the DAX in Germany gained 0.4% and Britain's FTSE 100 added 0.8%.

Asian markets ended mixed. Japan's benchmark Nikkei index rose 0.8%, and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong edged up 0.4%. The Shanghai Composite tumbled 1.4%.

Currencies and commodities: The dollar rose against the euro and the British pound, but slipped versus the Japanese yen.

Oil futures for October delivery gained 56 cents to $75.23 a barrel. The government's weekly supply data will be released at 11 a.m. ET.

Gold for December delivery edged up 40 cents to $1,256 an ounce.

Bonds: The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.69%, from 2.65% late Wednesday. To top of page

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