Stocks poised to open higher

May 19, 2011: 8:54 AM ET

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NEW YORK(CNNMoney) -- U.S. stocks were set to edge higher at Thursday's open, as investors weigh a slightly better-than-expected report on the labor market, and await additional reports on the housing and manufacturing sectors.

The pace of economic growth has been keeping investors on edge, as they parse through mixed reports. But experts say there's no need to panic.

"We have told people that we expect the economy to still grow, but just at a slower rate," said Frank Fantozzi, CEO and President of Planned Financial Services in Cleveland.

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

Stocks pushed higher Wednesday, with the Dow and S&P 500 snapping a three-session losing streak.

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Recently, investor enthusiasm has dampened, as both stocks and commodities have pulled back from recent highs, and Wall Street looks to the conclusion of the Federal Reserve's $600 billion bond-buying program at the end of June.

"We are not trending in a perfect straight line," Fantozzi said. "When you get into a slower growth pattern, there is going to be choppiness."

Also adding to investor uncertainty, the United States hit its debt ceiling on Monday and Congress continues to battle over the nation's budget.

Economy: Investors get a number of economic reports Thursday morning.

The number of people filing for first-time unemployment benefits dropped sharply for the second straight week to 409,000, the government said. Economists polled by expected jobless benefits to show a drop to 420,000.

No change is expected from the April index on leading economic indicators, following a 0.4% rise the month before.

Also due Thursday morning is the Philadelphia Fed index for May, a regional reading on manufacturing. Analysts expect the index to fall to 18, from 18.5 the previous month.

At 10:00 a.m. ET, the National Association of Realtors will release its April reading on existing home sales. Economists polled by are looking for a rise to an annualized rate of 5.2 million units, from 5.1 million in March.

Companies: Business social network LinkedIn priced its initial public offering at $45 a share late Wednesday. The deal values LinkedIn at $4.25 billion, making it one of the largest tech IPOs since Google (GOOG, Fortune 500). LinkedIn will begin trading Thursday on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol "LNKD."

Sears Holdings (SHLD, Fortune 500) announced a net loss for the most recent quarter of $170 million, compared to a profit of $16 million a year ago. The loss per share came in at $1.39 for the quarter. Sears blamed bad weather and the weak economy for their performance. Earnings per share of $1.39 was worse than the $1.22 analysts expected.

Gap (GPS, Fortune 500) will report its company earnings after the close. The clothing retailer is expected to earn 39 cents per share.

Shares of Intel (INTC, Fortune 500) fell more than 1.8%, after Goldman Sachs reportedly downgraded the chipmaker on concerns about oversupply.

And shares of Big Lots (BIG, Fortune 500) fell almost 10%, after the big box discount retailer said it would not be selling itself, according to reports from the Wall Street Journal.

World markets: European stocks rose in midday trading. Britain's FTSE 100 added 0.9%, the DAX in Germany gained 1.1% and France's CAC 40 ticked up 0.5%.

In Asia, Japan's GDP declined at a 3.7% annual rate in the first quarter, indicating a recession.

Asian markets ended the session mixed. The Shanghai Composite slid 0.5% and Japan's Nikkei shaved 0.4%, while the Hang Seng in Hong Kong rose 0.7%.

Currencies and commodities: The dollar was slightly higher against the euro and the Japanese yen, but edged lower against the British pound.

Oil for June delivery gained 16 cents, or 0.2%, to $100.26 a barrel. The contract for June oil settles tomorrow.

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Gold futures for June delivery fell $2.80, or 0.2%, to $1,493 an ounce.

Silver futures for July delivery added 33 cents, or 0.9%, to $35.43 an ounce.

Bonds: The price on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury dipped, pushing the yield up to 3.20% from 3.17% late Wednesday.

In recent weeks, the yield on the benchmark Treasury has been moving closer to 3% than 4%, a sign of investor concern about a slowdown in the economy.

And the continued drama over the debt ceiling could add to those worries. "If there really is no clear indication of what is going on, you will see the bond markets react not favorably toward it," said Fantozzi. To top of page

Index Last Change % Change
Dow 32,627.97 -234.33 -0.71%
Nasdaq 13,215.24 99.07 0.76%
S&P 500 3,913.10 -2.36 -0.06%
Treasuries 1.73 0.00 0.12%
Data as of 6:29am ET
Company Price Change % Change
Ford Motor Co 8.29 0.05 0.61%
Advanced Micro Devic... 54.59 0.70 1.30%
Cisco Systems Inc 47.49 -2.44 -4.89%
General Electric Co 13.00 -0.16 -1.22%
Kraft Heinz Co 27.84 -2.20 -7.32%
Data as of 2:44pm ET
Overnight Avg Rate Latest Change Last Week
30 yr fixed3.80%3.88%
15 yr fixed3.20%3.23%
5/1 ARM3.84%3.88%
30 yr refi3.82%3.93%
15 yr refi3.20%3.23%
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