Stocks: 4 things to know before the open

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Three cheers for the Federal Reserve!

It looks like Wednesday's Fed-inspired stock market rally could continue today.

Here are the four things you need to know before the opening bell rings in New York:

1. The 'patient' Fed: U.S. stock futures are rising by about 1% and all major European markets are registering significant gains after the Fed indicated it was going to take its sweet time raising interest rates.

Analysts believe the Fed has signaled that it's unlikely to begin raising rates until sometime in the summer of 2015 or later.

The Fed's remarks helped U.S. stocks notch up their biggest gains of 2014 on Wednesday. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 288 points. Both the S&P 500 and Nasdaq rose by more than 2%. Nearly all Asian markets also closed with big gains.

2. Calm in the oil markets: Crude oil futures are edging higher, trading just above $57 per barrel. Oil prices have taken a massive tumble over the past few weeks and this sharp, fast fall has rattled investors and oil producing nations.

3. Putin's press conference: In Russia, the ruble was stabilizing and stock markets gained about 5%. The Russian government and central bank unveiled a series of measures Wednesday aimed at containing the country's financial crisis.

In a televised press conference Thursday, President Vladimir Putin blamed the oil slump and Western sanctions for the turmoil, which has seen the ruble plunge by about 45% this year. Economic growth is falling off a cliff, and oil revenues are shrinking.

4. Earnings and economics: Rite Aid (RAD) will release quarterly earnings before the opening bell. Nike (NKE) and Pier 1 Imports (PIR) will report after the close.

On the economic front, the U.S. government will post weekly jobless claims at 8:30 a.m. ET.

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