Strong jobless claims report lifts Wall Street

@CNNMoneyInvest December 8, 2011: 8:52 AM ET
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NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- U.S. stocks point to a higher open Thursday, following a better-than-expected jobless claims report.

The Dow Jones industrial average (INDU), S&P 500 (SPX) and Nasdaq (COMP) futures were all higher ahead of the opening bell. Stock futures indicate the possible direction of the markets when they open at 9:30 a.m. ET.

Investors are also keeping a wary eye on developments from Europe.

European leaders are meeting Thursday in Brussels to discuss closer political and economic coordination, as well as other measures to restore market confidence and stabilize the euro currency.

The European Central Bank cut its key interest rate by a quarter-percentage point Thursday morning, to 1%. The central bank was widely expected to cut it's rates by up to 0.5%, as the risk of a broad recession in Europe continue to rise.

Europe's mission 'hardly' accomplished

U.S. stocks ended mostly higher Wednesday, as investors bet that European leaders will produce a meaningful solution to the debt crisis. But trading has been choppy this week, amid a flurry of rumors about what the politicians may or may not announce after the summit.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is in Europe this week to meet with top government officials, highlighting the growing concern in Washington about the eurozone debt crisis.

Economy: The U.S. government reported Thursday that the number of people filing for initial unemployment benefits fell to a 9-month low of 381,000 in the latest week.

The news boosted markets, as jobless claims for the week ending December 3 were expected to hit 395,000, according to a survey of analysts by Briefing.com.

Reports on inventories and the trade balance are also due Thursday.

Wholesale inventories for the month of October are expected to have increased by 0.2%, after contracting by 0.1% the month prior. Meanwhile, the U.S. trade deficit for October is expected to hit $44.0 billion, up from $43.1 billion in September.

World markets: European stocks were mixed in morning trading. Britain's FTSE 100 (UKX) edged up 0.5%, the DAX (DAX) in Germany added 0.3% and France's CAC 40 (CAC40) fell 0.3%.

Asian markets ended lower. The Shanghai Composite (SHCOMP) fell 0.1%, the Hang Seng (HSI) in Hong Kong dropped 0.7% and Japan's Nikkei (N225) fell 0.7%

Companies: After weeks of speculation about how more than a billion dollars in customer money went missing at MF Global, former CEO Jon Corzine gave his side of the story on Capitol Hill Thursday.

"I simply do not know where the money is, or why the accounts have not been reconciled to date," Corzine said in a prepared statement to Congress. "I sincerely apologize, both personally and on behalf of the company, to our customers, our employees and our investors, who are bearing the brunt of the impact of the firm's bankruptcy."

Discount retailer Costco (COST, Fortune 500) released quarterly results before the opening bell Thursday. The retailer missed analysts' expectations, reporting earnings of 73 cents a share. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters expected earnings of 80 cents a share.

Meat producer Smithfield Foods (SFD, Fortune 500) beat analysts' expectations, posting earnings of 76 cents a share.

On Wednesday, retailer J.C. Penney (JCP, Fortune 500) announced it would buy a stake in home decor expert Martha Stewart's franchise, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (MSO). The retail giant said it would invest $38.5 million. Shares of Martha Stewart Living rose 33% in early trading.

Currencies and commodities: The dollar gained strength against the euro, the British pound and Japanese yen.

Oil for December delivery rose $1.03 to $101.52 a barrel.

Gold futures for February delivery rose $11.20 to $1,756 an ounce.

Bonds: The price on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury was little changed, with the yield holding steady at 2.02% from late Wednesday. To top of page

Index Last Change % Change
Dow 16,501.65 0.00 0.00%
Nasdaq 4,148.34 21.37 0.52%
S&P 500 1,878.61 3.22 0.17%
Treasuries 2.69 0.00 0.07%
Data as of 5:34pm ET
Company Price Change % Change
Facebook Inc 60.87 -0.49 -0.80%
Bank of America Corp... 16.34 -0.03 -0.18%
Microsoft Corp 39.86 0.17 0.43%
Verizon Communicatio... 46.28 -1.15 -2.42%
Micron Technology In... 26.16 -0.09 -0.34%
Data as of 4:01pm ET
Overnight Avg Rate Latest Change Last Week
30 yr fixed4.28%4.41%
15 yr fixed3.30%3.33%
5/1 ARM3.30%3.34%
30 yr refi4.31%4.39%
15 yr refi3.35%3.31%
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