NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- U.S. stocks pointed to a higher open Thursday, following an economic report showing that initial jobless claims hit a 3-year-low.
Dow Jones industrial average (), S&P 500 ( ) and Nasdaq ( ) futures were all about 1% higher ahead of the opening bell. Stock futures indicate the possible direction of the markets when they open at 9:30 a.m. ET.
The number of people filing for initial unemployment benefits fell to 366,000 in the latest week -- the lowest level since May 2008, and well below analysts' estimates. Analysts surveyed by Briefing.com expected initial jobless claims for the week ended Dec. 10 to hit 390,000 -- up from 381,000 the week prior.
Investors were already feeling modestly optimistic, following two reports signaling improvement in the global manufacturing sector. The reports showed that while the manufacturing sector continued to contract in both China and the eurozone in December, the contraction was at a slower pace than the month before.
U.S. stocks are coming off of losses Wednesday, as the European debt crisis continued to weigh on the markets and a stronger dollar dragged down commodities prices.
The sell-off came as investors anticipated further interest rate cuts from the European Central Bank, which lowered its benchmark rate to 1% earlier this month. The euro was under pressure, falling below the key $1.30 level against the dollar and reaching its lowest level since mid-January.
The U.S. dollar, meanwhile, strengthened as the euro declined. The stronger dollar took a toll on commodities that are priced in the U.S. currency.
World markets: European stocks rose in morning trading. Britain's FTSE 100 ( ) ticked up 0.9%, the DAX ( ) in Germany gained 1.4% and France's CAC 40 ( ) added 1.1%.
Asian markets ended sharply lower. The Shanghai Composite (
Economy: The Bureau of Labor Statistics' Producer Price Index for the month of November increased by 0.3%, which was higher than expected. The index dropped 0.3% in October.
Industrial production for November is on tap for 9:15 a.m. ET, and is expected to increase by 0.2% after a 0.7% uptick in October.
Companies: Often considered a bellwether of the economy, FedEx ( , Fortune 500) reported better-than-expected income in its second fiscal quarter, with an earnings per share of $1.57. Shares rose about 3% in premarket trading.
Shares of Novellus Systems () climbed 24% in premarket trading, after Lam Research Corp ( ) announced it will acquire the company in a $3.3 billion transaction. Both companies are large manufacturers of semiconductors, used in chips.
Michael Kors () stock will make its debut on the New York Stock Exchange Thursday, after the fashion brand raised $944 million in its initial public offering the previous evening. The IPO was the largest ever for a U.S. fashion company.
Research in Motion (struggled in 2011 with delays, poor sales, missed financial targets and outages.) is scheduled to report quarterly earnings after the closing bell. The BlackBerry maker
Oil for January delivery gained 70 cents to $95.65 a barrel.
Gold futures for February delivery rose $3.60 to $1,590.50 an ounce.
Bonds: The price on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury rose, pushing the yield down to 1.88% from 1.90% late Wednesday.
|What we want Apple to unveil at WWDC|
|Millennials squeezed out of buying a home|
|7 traits the rich have in common|
|Big Data knows you're sick, tired and depressed|
|Your car is a giant computer - and it can be hacked|
|Overnight Avg Rate||Latest||Change||Last Week|
|30 yr fixed||3.92%||3.89%|
|15 yr fixed||3.05%||3.05%|
|30 yr refi||3.99%||3.95%|
|15 yr refi||3.10%||3.10%|
Today's featured rates: