RTTNews - Stocks are poised to open Thursday's session moderately higher, as traders largely shrugged off disappointing data on the condition of the labor market and retail sales. The major index futures are all in positive territory, with the Dow futures currently up by 60 points.
First-time claims for unemployment benefits showed a modest increase in the week ended August 8th, surprising economists who had expected a modest decrease. Nonetheless, jobless claims remain well off the peaks seen in the spring.
The Labor Department's weekly jobs report showed that initial jobless claims edged up to 558,000 from the previous week's revised figured of 554,000. Economists had been expecting claims to slip to 545,000 from the 550,000 originally reported for the previous week.
Separately, the Commerce Department said retail sales fell 0.1 percent in July. This followed a revised 0.8 percent increase in the previous month. The figure surprise economists, who had expected sales to increase by 0.8 percent.
Excluding the auto sector, which received a boost from the government's popular cash for clunkers program, retail sales dropped by 0.6 percent. Economists were looking for a 0.1 percent increase in sales excluding autos.
Nonetheless, some positive sentiment has been generated by better than expected second quarter earnings from Wal-Mart (WMT), which reported earnings for the quarter of $0.87 per share compared to analyst estimates of $0.86 per share.
In other earnings news, communications and information technology company Harris Corp. (HRS) reported a net loss for the fourth quarter, hurt by special charges as well as weak results from its Government Communications Systems segment and its Broadcast Communications segment.
Engineering and technical service provider URS Corp. (URS) reported a sharp increase in its second-quarter profit, helped by an after-tax gain from the sale of its equity interest in a German mining and power business.
Advance Auto Parts Inc. (AAP) said that its second quarter profit rose 7 percent from last year, helped by 4.8 percent same-store sales growth. Both earnings and revenues beat analyst estimates.
The world's largest brewer Anheuser Busch InBev (ABI) reported a higher net profit for the second quarter that came in above analysts' estimates. However, the brewer warned that the second half of the year would be challenging.
Stocks saw a strong outing on Wednesday, as trader expectations were largely confirmed by the Federal Reserve. The Dow jumped 1.3 percent to 9,361.61, the Nasdaq climbed by 1.5 percent to 1,998.72 and the S&P 500 rose by 1.2 percent to 1,005.81.
Crude oil futures are rising in early commodities trading, moving up to $71.63 a barrel after moving modestly higher in the previous session. The price of gold is also gaining, climbing by $7.90 to $959.30 an ounce.
On the currency front, the U.S. dollar is sliding against the major European currencies, dropping to $1.4276 against the euro while falling to $1.6587 versus the pound. The buck is also retreating versus the yen, trading at 95.71 yen.
In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region finished higher on Thursday. Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 Index rose by 0.8 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index surged up by 2.1 percent.
The major European markets are also moving higher, with the German DAX Index and the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index both advancing by 1 percent, while the French CAC 40 Index is up by 0.3 percent.
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