Stocks: Will the momentum hold?

SP 850

After a rocky start to the week, U.S. equity markets have rallied for two consecutive days and it looks like they may still have room to run Thursday.

U.S. stock futures were higher ahead of the opening bell.

Investors will be looking to jobs and income data Thursday morning for more clues about the strength of the economic recovery.

The Labor Deparmtent said Initial claims for unemployment benefits fell 9,000 to 346,000 in the week ended June 22.

Separately, Americans' personal income rose 0.5% in May, while spending increased 0.3%, according to the Commerce Department.

The reports were in-line with economists' estimates.

Investors have been taking their cues from U.S. economic data as they attempt to gauge when the Federal Reserve will begin to slow the pace of its bond buying program.

Fed officials have kept investors on their toes recently and two top central bank officials are scheduled to speak later Thursday, including New York Fed president William Dudley.

In corporate news, ConAgra Foods (CAG) shares rose after the company said it swung to a profit in is fiscal fourth quarter. Shares of KB Home (KBH) were also higher after the homebuilder said losses narrowed in the second quarter.

Accenture (ACN) and Nike (NKE) will release results after the market close.

U.S. stocks rose sharply Wednesday as investors bet that the latest weak GDP reading would keep the Federal Reserve's stimulus going.

The Dow Jones industrial average jumped 150 points, or 1%. The Nasdaq gained 0.9%, while the S&P 500 jumped 1%.

Related: Fear & Greed Index dwelling in fear

European markets were mixed in morning trading, with London's FTSE 100 heading up while the CAC 40 in Paris was pulling back. The benchmark French index rallied by more than 2% Wednesday.

Asian markets ended mixed. Japan's Nikkei gained almost 3% in a banner day. China stocks were more subdued, with the Hang Seng closing up 0.5% and the Shanghai Composite declining 0.1%.

Australia's ASX All Ordinaries index shot up by nearly 2% Thursday as Kevin Rudd returned as prime minister, three years after being replaced in the office by his then-deputy Julia Gillard.

Investors are hoping this changing of the guards will result in more tax concessions for miners, said Mike van Dulken, head of research at Accendo Markets.

CNNMoney Sponsors