"Markets are continuing to grapple with yet another U.S. data disappointment in yesterday's January retail sales numbers," wrote Deutsche Bank analyst Jim Reid, referring to the 0.4% drop in sales.
In corporate news, Jos. A. Bank ( shares rallied in premarket trading after the clothing retailer announced that it was acquiring Eddie Bauer for $825 million. )
Also, companies including Campbell Soup (Fortune 500) and , Hyatt Hotels ( were set to release quarterly results before the opening bell. )
Kraft Foods (Fortune 500) shares rose in after-hours trading Thursday following quarterly results that beat expectations. ,
U.S. stocks finished higher Thursday. The Dow Jones industrial average has made gains in five of the last six trading days.
European markets were firmer in morning trading, drawing some support from slightly stronger-than-expected fourth-quarter growth figures. Eurozone GDP rose by 0.3%, compared with the third quarter, and rose by 0.5% compared to the year-ago quarter, in its first sign of annual growth since 2011.
Asian markets ended mixed, with gains in Shanghai and Hong Kong but another hefty fall for Tokyo's Nikkei.
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|Overnight Avg Rate||Latest||Change||Last Week|
|30 yr fixed||4.28%||4.41%|
|15 yr fixed||3.30%||3.33%|
|30 yr refi||4.31%||4.39%|
|15 yr refi||3.35%||3.31%|
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