ECB Stimulus Hopes Lift US Stock Futures

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Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange February 21, 2012.

The U.S. stock index futures point to a higher open Thursday as investor sentiment was underpinned by the expectation that the European Central Bank would announce stimulus measures to ease the euro zone debt burden.

Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average were up 0.25 percent, futures on the Standard & Poor's 500 index were up 0.33 percent and those on the Nasdaq 100 index were up 0.30 percent.

Investors will be focusing on the ECB meeting in Frankfurt Thursday. Market players are waiting for an announcement of the stimulus measures by the ECB as investors feel that bold measures, including easing in the monetary policy, will give the much-needed thrust to boost liquidity in the euro zone financial system.

Investors are likely to focus on the Labor Department's weekly U.S. jobless claims data to be reported Thursday. The initial jobless claims report, which measures the number of individuals who filed for unemployment insurance for the first time last week, is expected to fall to 370,000 in the week ending September 1, down from 374,000 in the previous week.

Automatic Data Processing will release its National Employment Report Thursday. The report is a measure of the monthly change in nonfarm, private employment data based on the payroll data of approximately 400,000 U.S. business clients. It is expected to rise by 140,000 jobs in August, down from 163,000 in July.

On Wednesday, the U.S. markets remained in a tight range as investors continued to be nervous waiting for policymakers to announce stimulus measures to revive the economic growth momentum. The Department t of Labor reported revised nonfarm productivity data Wednesday. The second quarter productivity was revised to a 2.2 percent increase in the annual rate in the nonfarm business sector, up from a 1.6 percent rise that was initially reported and a 0.9 percent decrease in the first quarter.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.09 percent, the S&P 500 Index was down 0.11 percent and the Nasdaq Composite Index fell 0.19 percent.

Major European indices were in green Thursday on hopes ahead of the ECB meeting. London's FTSE 100 was up 17.04 points, Germany's DAX 30 Index rose 14.98 points and France's CAC 40 advanced 11.55 points.

Asian markets were mixed Wednesday as investors continued to wait for the central banks to make bold decisions regarding the monetary easing policy to boost the economy. South Korea's economic growth slowed down to 0.3 percent in the second quarter, compared to the 0.9 percent growth in the previous three months.

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