After staging a late day rally in the previous session that resulted in a higher close for the major averages, stocks are likely to see some further upside in early trading on Thursday. The futures are currently indicating a moderately higher open, with the Dow futures up 43 points.
The upward momentum for the markets is partly due to a positive reaction to the release of quarterly results from financial services giant JP Morgan (JPM), which reported first quarter earnings that fell year-over-year but came in above analyst estimates.
JP Morgan reported first-quarter net income of $2.14 billion or $0.40 per share compared to $2.37 billion or $0.67 per share in the year ago quarter. Analysts expected the company to report earnings of $0.32 per share. Revenues also beat expectations for the quarter.
Additionally, mobile phone giant Nokia (NOK) is moving sharply higher in pre-market trading despite reporting first quarter earnings that fell sharply year-over-year. The company said its earnings for the quarter fell to 3 euro cents per share from 32 euro cents per share last year.
Some buying interest was generated by Nokia's remarks that its expects second quarter worldwide mobile device volume to be flat or show modest sequential growth
The markets may also benefit from a report from the Labor Department showing that jobless claims fell by much more than economists had been expecting in the week ended April 11th.
The report showed that jobless claims fell to 610,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 663,000. Economists had expected jobless claims to edge up 658,000 from the 654,000 originally reported for the previous week.
On the other hand, housing starts fell by much more than expected in the month of March, according to a report released by the Commerce Department, with the data likely to offset some of the recent optimism about stabilization in the housing market.
The report showed that housing starts fell 10.8 percent to an annual rate of 510,000 in March from the revised February estimate of 572,000. Economists had expected starts to slip to 540,000 from the 583,000 originally reported for the previous month.
The results of the Philadelphia Federal Reserve's manufacturing survey are due out at 10 AM ET. Economists expect the diffusion index of current activity in the sector to show a reading of negative 32 for April.
After showing a lack of direction throughout much of the session, stocks moved sharply higher going into the close of trading on Wednesday. The major averages all closed in positive territory after turning in a mixed performance for most of the day.
While stocks showed a notable decline in early trading, the major averages did not sustain the initial downward move and saw some volatility over the course of the day. The Dow closed up nearly 110 points, climbing back above the 8,000 level.
Crude oil futures are currently advancing $0.23 to $49.48 a barrel. On Wednesday, oil dipped $0.16 to $49.25 a barrel. Wednesday's retreat came following the release of a report showing that crude oil stockpiles rose by 5.6 million barrels last week.
Meanwhile, gold futures are slipping $1.40 to $892.10 an ounce after rising $1.50 to $893.50 an ounce. Gold has been trading slightly below the $900 an ounce level in recent weeks, lacking enough buying support to break above the crucial psychological level.
On the currency front, the U.S. dollar is trading at 99.13 yen, slightly weaker than the 99.3655 yen it was worth at the close of New York trading on Wednesday. Currently, the U.S. dollar is valued at $1.3213 versus the euro.
In overseas trading, the stocks markets across the Asia-Pacific region turned in another mixed performance on Thursday, with most of the markets in the region pulling back off their highs after seeing early strength.
The major European markets are all moving higher, with the French CAC 40 Index and the German DAX Index currently advancing 2.3 percent and 1.7 percent, respectively, while the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index is posting a 1.6 percent gain.
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