U.S. stocks set to shrug off Japan drop

Dow Futures 8:57am
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A big drop in Japan stocks didn't spill over onto Wall Street early Thursday.

U.S. stock futures were slightly higher ahead of the opening bell. Economic data that fell slighlty below expectations didn't rattle investors.

Japan's benchmark Nikkei index plunged 5.2%, and is now more than 10% off its peak, putting it into a technical correction. The index had risen by well over 70% in less than a year.

Asian markets ended with losses across the board, while European markets were mixed near midday, after starting sharply lower.

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Ahead of the opening bell, the government released weekly data on initial jobless claims that showed a slightly uptick and came in above expectations.

Meanwhile, the government's second estimate of first-quarter gross domestic product came in at 2.4%, below the first estimate released last month.

In corporate news, discount retailer Costco (COST) reported improved quarterly earnings that were slightly better than forecasts on a rise in revenue that fell just short of estimates.

Dish Network (DISH) raised its offer for Clearwire (CLWR) late Wednesday, topping the bid from Sprint Nextel (S). Dish is also locked in a takeover battle for Sprint (S) with Japan's SoftBank.

Electric car maker Tesla (TSLA) will triple its network of rapid charging stations to allow drivers to travel from Los Angeles to New York by year's end, CEO Elon Musk announced at the All Things Digital conference in California late Wednesday. But Musk also said a mass-market Tesla, priced at about $30,000, is still three to five years away.

Late Wednesday, Moody's cut the credit rating of Dow component Alcoa (AA) to junk bond status.

Shares of information data storage equipment maker EMC (EMC) got a lift after it announced its first quarterly dividend and increased the side of its share repurchase program.

U.S. stocks fell Wednesday, with the major indexes losing as much as 0.7%. The declines came as worries resurfaced about when the Federal Reserve might curtail its bond-buying program.

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Shares of NV Energy (NVE) surged on news that MidAmerican Energy, a subsidiary of Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway (BRKA), has agreed to acquire it. MidAmerican will pay $23.75 a share, a 23% premium to NV Energy's Wednesday closing price of $19.28.

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