RTTNews - Following a mixed finish in the previous session, stocks are poised for a moderately higher open on Thursday as traders digest some encouraging earnings and employment data. The major index futures are all in positive territory with the Dow futures up by 66 points.

The upward move in equity futures came as first-time claims for unemployment benefits showed a substantial decrease in the week ended July 4th, according to a report released by the Labor Department.

The report showed that jobless claims fell to 565,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 617,000. Economists had been expecting a more modest decrease to 603,000 from the 614,000 originally reported for the previous week.

With the bigger than expected decrease, weekly jobless claims fell below the 600,000 level for the first time since January.

Traders are also looking to fresh earnings figures, with Dow component Alcoa (AA) unofficially kicking off the start of the earnings season after the closing bell yesterday.

Alcoa reported an adjusted second quarter loss of $256 million or $0.26 per share, while Wall Street expected the company to report a loss of $0.37 per share. The firm also reported quarterly revenues of $4.2 billion, edging out analyst estimates of $3.93 billion.

CEO Klaus Kleinfeld expressed hope that stimulus measures unveiled by the U.S and Chinese governments might help revive demand for the company's products.

After the markets close today, Dow component Chevron (CVX) is set to report its second quarter earnings. Wall Street analysts expect the oil giant to report earnings of $1.22 per share compared to $2.90 per share in the same quarter last year. The oil giant has been in the news lately, marred by an attack on its oil pipeline in Africa.

Retail stocks may also be in focus, as Gap (GPS), American Eagle (AEO), Costco (COST) and Aeropostale (ARO) all reported lower comparable store sales for June. Wal-Mart (WMT), which is the benchmark retailer, no longer issues monthly sales figures.

Later on today, focus may turn to the $11.0 billion auction of thirty-year bonds by the Treasury Department, with traders looking for continued moderation in interest rates. The results of the auction will be revealed at 1:00 p.m. ET.

In other news, a report from the Government Accountability Office on Wednesday gave a mixed account on the use of the stimulus package passed by the Obama Administration.

This report, coupled with the admission of misreading the economy, might shed light on the credibility and the loopholes that need immediate attention for the success of the stimulus package and subsequent revival of the economy.

Following a modest upward move at the open, stocks swung between gains and losses over the course of the trading session on Wednesday, ending the day little changed. The Dow closed up by 15 points at 8,178 and the Nasdaq rose by 1 point to 1,747, while the S&P 500 fell 1 point to 880.

Crude oil futures are moving notably higher in early commodities trading, rising by $1.04 to $61.18 a barrel after ending the previous session down $2.79 at $60.14 a barrel. The price of gold is also on the rise, moving up by $5.20 to $914.50 an ounce.

On the currency front, the U.S. dollar is down against the major European currencies, falling to $1.3978 against the euro while dropping to $1.6250 versus the pound. Meanwhile, the dollar is recovering from its worst level in over four months against the yen, trading at 93.06 yen.

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region ended Thursday's session on a mixed note. Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 Index closed down by 1.4 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index rose by 0.4 percent on the day.

Meanwhile, the major European markets are seeing notable upside, with the German DAX Index and the French CAC 40 Index up by 1.8 percent and 1.3 percent, respectively. The U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index is also on the rise, posting a gain of 0.8 percent.

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