Stock index futures edged higher on Thursday ahead of data on the jobs market and producer prices, while a tick down in benchmark bond yields in Italy and Spain signaled easing concern about the euro zone's debt troubles.
S&P 500 futures hit a session high just below their 50-day moving average, a level that also provided resistance Wednesday in the cash market and could become a key technical hurdle.
Italian three-year borrowing costs jumped more than one percentage point at a bond auction compared to a month ago, but 10-year yields in both Italy and Spain edged lower for the day and the euro strengthened, as concerns over the region's debt seemed to ease.
Auctions (in Europe) have not been disastrous and that was good enough, said Art Hogan, managing director at Lazard Capital Markets in New York. Yields are not optimal but good enough to not cause panic.
A recent spike in borrowing costs in Spain and Italy reminded investors the debt crisis in the euro zone is not under control.
U.S. Federal Reserve vice chair Janet Yellen on Wednesday defended the Fed's easy monetary policy saying it was appropriate given high unemployment and the headwinds facing the economy and noted that the Fed has a variety of options if it decides to seek another round of asset purchases.
This market would rather see an improving data steam than more stimulus, Hogan said.
Data expected to have market implications include the U.S. Labor Department's weekly release of applications for unemployment insurance, due at 8:30 a.m. EDT (1230 GMT). Economists in a Reuters survey forecast a total of 355,000 new filings compared with 357,000 in the prior week.
The March Producer Price Index also will be released at 8:30 a.m. Economists forecast a 0.3 percent rise compared with a 0.4 percent rise in February.
S&P 500 futures rose 7.5 points and were below fair value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration of the contract. Dow Jones industrial average futures added 26 points and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 12 points.
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On Wednesday, U.S. stocks rose after five days of declines on the S&P 500 and the Dow industrials. An encouraging start to the earnings season contributed to the rebound, but the S&P 500 was unable to rise back above its 50-day moving average.
The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> rose 89.46 points, or 0.70 percent, to 12,805.39 at the close. The S&P 500 Index <.SPX> gained 10.12 points, or 0.74 percent, to 1,368.71. The Nasdaq Composite <.IXIC> advanced 25.24 points, or 0.84 percent, to 3,016.46.
(Reporting by Rodrigo Campos; Editing by Theodore d'Afflisio)