RTTNews - After a considerable pullback in the previous session, stocks are poised to open modestly higher on Thursday following the release of some encouraging economic data. The major index futures are all in positive territory, with Dow futures up by 35 points.

Traders are digesting a report from the Labor Department that showed that initial jobless claims came in at 623,000 in the week ended May 23rd. This was down 13,000 from a revised mark of 636,000 in the previous week.

At the same time, continuing claims, which measure the number of people receiving ongoing unemployment help, rose once again and set another record high. The statistic climbed 110,000 to 6.788 million.

Separately, a report from the Commerce Department showed that orders for durable goods increased by much more than expected in the month of April, although the stronger than expected growth came after a steep decline in March.

The report said that durable goods orders jumped 1.9 percent in April following a downwardly revised 2.1 percent decrease in March. Economists had expected orders to edge up 0.5 percent compared to the 0.8 percent drop that had been reported for the previous month.

Later this morning, traders will consider another report from the housing sector, with data on new home sales set to be released from the Commerce Department a half-hour after the open. Sales are expected to rise to an annual rate of 360,000 from 356,000 in March.

In earnings news, Big Lots Inc. (BIG) reported first quarter net income of $36.2 million or $0.44 per share, compared to net income of $34.5 million or $0.42 per share for the same period last year. The firm edged out Wall Street expectations of earnings of $0.40 per share. Traders reacted positively to the news driving the stock up by 4.8 percent in pre-market dealing.

Visteon Corp., one of the largest U.S. auto parts makers, which was long expected to succumb to economic pressures, finally revealed Thursday that it and certain of its U.S. units have filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection in the U.S. The company also revealed that Ford Motor Co. (F) has committed to debtor-in-possession, or DIP, financing during this period.

Traders are also keeping an eye on General Motors (GM), which is inching closer to filing the largest bankruptcy by a U.S. firm after not enough bondholders agreed to swap their debt for company stock.

In other corporate news, Time Warner Inc. (TWX) announced that its Board has authorized management to proceed with plans to spin off its AOL Internet business. Following the proposed transaction, AOL would be an independent, publicly traded company.

Following a notable rally in the previous session, stocks saw a considerable pullback during Wednesday's trading. The major averages showed a lack of conviction during the first half of the day before moving firmly into negative territory in the afternoon.

The Dow closed down by more than 170 points, nearly offsetting Tuesday's 190-point gain. The Nasdaq and the S&P 500 also finished lower, slipping by nearly 20 points each.

In early commodities trading, crude oil futures are little changed, edging up $0.09 to $63.54 a barrel, while gold futures are continuing their slide, slipping by $3.50 to $949.80 an ounce.

On the currency front, the U.S. dollar has continued to gain ground against the major European currencies, rising to $1.3888 against the euro and climbing to $1.5946 against the pound. The dollar has also moved up against the yen, rising to 96.87, its highest level in nearly three weeks.

Stocks markets across the Asia-Pacific region turned in a mixed performance on Thursday, although the markets in Hong Kong and mainland China were closed. Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 Index edged up 0.1 percent.

The major European markets are currently turning in a disappointing performance. The French CAC 40 Index and the German DAX Index are down by 0.9 and 1.3 percent, respectively, while the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index is down by 1.2 percent.

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