Stocks headed for higher start

By staff

NEW YORK ( -- U.S. stocks were poised to open higher Thursday, boosted by strong earnings and a report on China's slightly slower economic growth.

Dow Jones industrial average (INDU), S&P 500 (SPX) and Nasdaq (COMP) futures rose ahead of the opening bell. Futures measure current index values against perceived future performance.

Government figures released Thursday showed China's economic growth slowed for the second quarter in a row, cooling fears that its economy is growing at an unsustainable pace. China's gross domestic product, the broadest measure of economic output, grew at an annual rate of 9.6% during the third quarter of 2010.

That number was still higher than many analysts expected, and traders welcomed the report as a sign that China's economy will continue to lead the world recovery.

"China is still on fire," said Phil Streible, senior market strategist with futures broker Lind-Waldock. "They're still buying assets and expanding quickly. They even took some appropriate measures to try and curb that growth the other day, and the market is still responding nicely to it."

Stocks ended sharply higher Wednesday, rebounding from the worst session in more than two months, as investors took in mixed earnings results and continued to anticipate a new round of asset purchases from the Federal Reserve.

Economy: The government's weekly jobless claims report was slightly less than expected, with 452,000 Americans filing new claims for unemployment in the week ended Oct. 16.

A consensus of economists surveyed by had expected 455,000 jobless claims. That was based on a tally for the prior week that was revised much higher, to 475,000 claims from the previously reported 462,000.

The Conference Board's Leading Economic Indicators, due after the start of trading, was expected to have risen 0.3% in September after increasing by that amount in August.

The Philadelphia Fed index, a regional reading on manufacturing, was also due after the opening bell.

Companies: Traders also welcomed a slew of upbeat earnings reports Thursday morning.

Nokia (NOK) beat estimates when it announced a third-quarter profit of $737.9 million, compared with a $783 million loss a year earlier. But the mobile phone maker also said it will cut as many as 1,800 jobs as it streamlines its operations. Shares of Nokia rose 8% in premarket trading.

UPS (UPS, Fortune 500) and Caterpillar (CAT, Fortune 500) also both beat forecasts on income and revenue. AT&T (T, Fortune 500) beat estimates on revenue, but its profit was skewed by a $8.3 billion gain related to its acquisition of Cingular Wireless in 2006.

Netflix (NFLX) shares surged 11% in the premarket after it posted stronger-than-expected earnings after the close Wednesday.

Results from Amazon (AMZN, Fortune 500) and American Express (AXP, Fortune 500) were due after the close.

World markets: Asian markets finished mixed. Japan's benchmark Nikkei was a few points lower, while the Hang Seng in Hong Kong rose 0.4%. Shares in Shanghai eased 0.7%.

European markets gained in early trading. The DAX in Germany and the CAC 40 in France both added about 1%, and Britain's FTSE 100 rose 0.7%.

Commodities and Currencies: The dollar eased against the euro and Japanese yen, but was higher versus the British pound.

Oil prices for December delivery slipped 51 cents to $82.03 a barrel.

Gold futures for December delivery fell $5.20 to $1,339 an ounce.

Bonds: The price on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury was little changed, with the price slipping to boost the yield up slightly to 2.49%.  To top of page

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