NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- U.S. stocks were set to edge higher Thursday, after the European Central Bank raised its key interest rates by a quarter point and initial claims for unemployment showed improvement.
The Dow Jones industrial average (INDU), S&P 500 (SPX) and Nasdaq (COMP) futures were slightly higher ahead of the opening bell. Futures measure current index values against perceived future performance.
The ECB's increase to 1.25% was in line with expectations. Separately, the Bank of England, in its meeting Thursday, made no change in its key rate.
Like the Federal Reserve in the United States, the ECB and Bank of England have both kept interest rates at historic lows recently -- as a way to spur economic activity following the recession.
But rising energy and food prices have raised fears that inflation could be become unwieldy, at a time when economic growth is still sluggish.
"Us not raising rates doesn't mean rates won't rise," said Joe Clark, market analyst with Financial Enhancement Group.
The Labor Department reported the number of people filing for first time unemployment fell by 10,000 to 382,000 in the latest week. The reading was better than expected.
U.S. stocks closed higher Wednesday, as strength in the technology sector offset weakness in energy producers and industrial companies.
With the S&P 500 continuing to nudge up against the key 1,340 level, Clark said investors are feeling a stronger pull toward selling and are just waiting for a reason to follow through, noting that trading volumes on the buy side have been extremely thin.
Economy: The Federal Reserve comes out with February consumer credit statistics at 3 p.m. ET.
Another prominent home retailer, Bed Bath & Beyond (BBBY, Fortune 500), said it earned $1.12 per share in its fiscal fourth quarter, far outdoing the 97-cent per share profit analysts had predicted. Shares rose 10.3% in pre-market trading.
Also Thursday, many large retail chains are scheduled to report their same-store sales for the latest month.
World markets: European stocks were mixed in midday trading. Britain's FTSE 100 and the DAX in Germany were flat, while France's CAC 40 rose 0.2%.
Asian markets ended mixed. The Shanghai Composite rose 0.2%, and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong was flat.
Japan's Nikkei rose 0.1% after the Bank of Japan kept interest rates unchanged, but set up a $11.73 billion special funding facility for banks affected by the March 11 earthquake.
Oil for May delivery slid 6 cents to $108.77 a barrel. A survey for motorist group AAA showed the average price of gasoline rose for the 16th straight day, up 1.8 cents to $3.725 a gallon.
Gold futures for June delivery rose $1.50 to $1,460 an ounce, a day after hitting a new intraday record of $1,463.70 an ounce.
Bonds: The price on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury edged lower, pushing the yield up to 3.58% from 3.56% late Wednesday.
|Overnight Avg Rate||Latest||Change||Last Week|
|30 yr fixed||4.05%||4.05%|
|15 yr fixed||3.15%||3.18%|
|30 yr refi||4.04%||4.03%|
|15 yr refi||3.14%||3.16%|
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