Stocks: Powering ahead, inspired by Fed

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Markets aren't done cheering the Fed.

U.S. stocks are expected to pop Thursday morning after hitting record highs the previous session, with investors welcoming the Federal Reserve's decision to make no change to the rate at which it is pumping money into markets.

U.S. stock futures were up by roughly 0.4% ahead of the opening bell, and global markets were also surging in response to the Fed announcement.

Investors were surprised Wednesday that the Fed chose to maintain its $85-billion bond buying program, which has been supporting both America's economic recovery and stock markets around the world. Many had expected the Fed to begin cutting back -- or tapering -- its massive quantitative easing program.

"It appears that [policymakers at the Fed were] not in the mood to take any chances with the economic recovery underway," said Iain Stealey, a portfolio manager at J.P. Morgan. "Tapering is going to happen at some point, but it's going to be very data dependent."

Meanwhile, the U.S. dollar continued to edge lower versus other global currencies, after taking a big fall Wednesday.

Related: World markets gain following Fed decision

Investors are now waiting on the Labor Department to release its weekly report on initial jobless claims at 8:30 a.m. ET.

At 10 a.m., the National Association of Realtors will release its monthly report on existing home sales.

In corporate news, ConAgra (CAG) is scheduled to release quarterly results before the opening bell.

Rite Aid (RAD) reported a quarterly profit, compared to its year-earlier loss, and raised earnings guidance for the year, reflecting a better-than-expected first half of the fiscal year. The drug store chain's stock surged 15% in premarket trading.

ConAgra Foods (CAG) stock was flat after the agricultural company reported a dip in quarterly profit compared to last year.

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European markets were surging in afternoon trading, with London's FTSE 100 index leading the pack with a 1.4% gain.

Asian markets also rose Thursday. Japan's Nikkei closed 1.8% higher and Hong Kong's Hang Seng increased by 1.7%. Meanwhile, major exchanges in South Korea, Taiwan and Shanghai were closed for a holiday.

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