After moving higher over the course of the previous session, stocks are likely to see some further upside in early trading on Thursday. The major index futures are currently indicating a notably higher open for the markets, with the Dow futures currently up 145 points.
The upward momentum for the markets is largely due to positive comments from Wells Fargo (WFC), which said it now expects to report first quarter earnings of $3 billion or $0.55 per share compared to analyst estimates of $0.23 per share.
Some positive sentiment has also been generated by a report from the Labor Department showing a bigger than expected decrease in weekly jobless claims.
The report showed that jobless claims fell to 654,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 674,000. Economists had expected jobless claims to edge down to 660,000 from the 669,000 originally reported for the previous week.
However, the Labor Department also said that continuing claims rose to a new record high of 5.840 million in the week ended March 28th from the preceding week's revised level of 5.745 million.
In other economic news, the Commerce Department said that the U.S. trade deficit narrowed to $26.0 billion in February from $36.2 billion in January. Economists had been expecting the trade deficit to come in at $36.0 billion.
Meanwhile, ratings agency Moody's downgraded the credit rating for billionaire Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc. and several of its insurance subsidiaries.
The long-term issuer rating of Berkshire Hathaway was lowered to Aa2 from Aaa, while the Insurance Financial Strength rating of National Indemnity Co., a subsidiary of Berkshire and its flagship reinsurer, was downgraded to Aa1 from Aaa.
After suffering choppy trading for much of Wednesday's session, stocks ultimately closed higher. The uncertainty seen for most of the day came as investors responded to a mix of positive and negative news from both the economic and corporate fronts.
While stocks saw initial strength, the major averages had some difficulty sustaining the upward move and saw some volatility as the day progressed. The Dow bounced back and forth across the unchanged line before closing up almost 50 points.
Crude oil futures are advancing $1.61 to $50.99 a barrel after edging up $0.23 to $49.38 a barrel on Wednesday. Meanwhile, Gold futures, which rose $2.60 to $885.90 an ounce in the previous session, are currently slipping $7.30 to $878.60 an ounce.
On the currency front, the U.S. dollar is trading at 100.441 yen after the greenback weakened to 99.7635 yen at the close of New York trading on Wednesday. The dollar is currently valued at $1.328 versus the euro.
In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region showed strong upward moves on Thursday, benefiting from some optimism about the outlook for the global economy. Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 Index closed up 3.7 percent.
The major European markets are also moving higher, with the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index currently advancing 1.4 percent, while the French CAC 40 Index and the German DAX Index are rising 1.7 percent and 2.7 percent, respectively.
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