Weekly jobless claims showed a surprising decline last week, providing further ammunition to the argument that August's weak nonfarm payrolls report was an anomaly. In the September 22 week, the number of U.S. workers filing for jobless benefits dropped 15,000 to a 4-week low of 298,000, surprising economists who had expected a 5,000-claims increase to 316,000.

The 4-week average dropped by 9,750 during the latest week to 311,500, the average's lowest reading since August 4. Continuing claims for workers who remain reliant on unemployment benefits rose 11,000 to 2.55 million in the September 15 week. The 4-week average for continuing claims slipped 5,500, however, hitting 2.57 million. Across the country, 35 states posted an increase in initial jobless claims, while 18 posted a decrease.

And elsewhere, the Commerce Department said its final figure for second-quarter gross domestic product showed a 3.8% growth rate for the April-June period. This is a slight downward revision from the initially reported 4.0% increase. This adjustment was in line with economists' estimates. Real final sales were revised fractionally lower to show a 3.6% growth rate, and the purchase price index held steady at 3.8%. Corporate profits posted a nice jump in the second quarter, up 5.2% from the 1.5% rise enjoyed in the first quarter.

One last bit of economic news new home sales will be reported at 10:00 a.m. Index futures for the Dow, the S&P 500, and the Nasdaq Composite are all showing modest gains just ahead of the open.