Stocks: Third day of gains at risk

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Thursday's big question in the markets is whether stocks can advance Thursday for the third day in a row.

U.S. stock futures were edging lower, abandoning their earlier gains.

Investors were feeling upbeat after minutes from the latest Federal Reserve meeting seemed to indicate that interest rates will remain low for some time. But as the morning dragged on, futures slipped into the red, as a mixed bag of earnings results failed to carry the momentum forward.

Rite Aid (RAD) shares surged in premarket trading, driven by strong adjusted earnings per share in the drug retailer's quarterly report.

Home decor retailer Pier 1 (PIR) announced that quarterly net income dropped, compared to the year before.

Shares in retailer Bed Bath & Beyond (BBBY) managed to even out in premarket trading, after falling in the after-hours following a company report about quarterly revenue that missed Wall Street's expectations.

Shares of La Quinta (LQ)rose in extended trading. The hotel chain began trading Wednesday.

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Looking to the day ahead, markets are awaiting the weekly jobless claims report that will come out at 8:30 a.m. ET.

On Wednesday, the Dow Jones industrial average and S&P 500 jumped by more than 1% and the Nasdaq gained 1.7%, boosted by the latest Fed minutes.

The minutes showed that Fed members were broadly united in ditching the 6.5% unemployment target as a gauge for timing interest rate increases. Investors assume this means low rates will stick around for longer than expected.

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Most major European markets were moving slightly higher in midday trading in the afterglow of Wednesday's rally on Wall Street. But the CAC 40 in Paris was flat.

Investors across Europe are watching as Greece returns to the bond market for the first time in more than four years. The country is looking to raise money by issuing five-year bonds, and demand is reported to be strong.

Greece was shut out of international markets in 2010 when its economy collapsed, leading to two rescues by the European Union and International Monetary Fund.

Meanwhile, in Asia, nearly all the major stock markets ended with gains. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong shot up by 1.5% and the Shanghai Composite added 1.4%.

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