US stocks were looking to end an abbreviated week on a high note Thursday morning in New York as traders looked ahead to March sales figures from the nation's retailers.
Thursday is shaping up to be a busy day following yesterday's respite from a modest losing streak earlier in the week.
As of 6 am et, the S&P Futures up 7 points, the NASDAQ Futures up 8 points, and the Dow Futures were up 67 points.
After suffering choppy trading for much of Wednesday's session, stocks ultimately closed higher on the day. The Dow closed up 47.55 points or 0.6 percent at 7,837.11, the Nasdaq closed up 29.05 points or 1.9 percent at 1,590.66 and the S&P 500 closed up 9.61 points or 1.2 percent at 825.16.
The markets will be closed on Friday in observance of the Good Friday holiday.
This week, stocks have been able to dodge, despite a few down days, some bad news that would have more negatively impacted markets in earlier in the year.
In corporate news Thursday, Costco Wholesale Corp. posted a 5% decline in its March comparable-store sales, hurt by gasoline deflation and foreign exchange. Retailers have been grappling with the pins and needles of the surly economic climate, through one of the worst holiday shopping seasons in recent history, on eroding consumer confidence.
Teen apparel retailer Hot Topic, Inc. (HOTT: News ) said same-store sales rose 7.1% in March and 8.7% in the quarter-to-date period, prompting the company to raise its first quarter earnings guidance.
For March, same-store sales rose 10.6% at Hot Topic stores but fell 5.9% at Torrid stores, the company said.
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.
Dutch financial-services giant ING Groep NV said that its previously announced measures to reduce cost, risk, and leverage are on track, through which ING aims to take it 'back to basics'. ING said it plans to divest a total of 10 to 15 businesses, with expected total proceeds between 6 billion and 8 billion euros, and that it will operate the Bank and Insurer separately under one Group umbrella.
British financial services firm Barclays Plc (BCS: News ,BARC.L: News ) is reportedly closing in on a deal with private equity firm CVC Capital Partners Ltd. to sell its iShares unit for about 3 billion pounds or US$4.29 billion. The deal is expected to be announced as early as today or next week.
The Bank of England is expected to hold its key interest rate at a record low. As the interest rate reached near zero, the central bank is left with only non-conventional measures to raise liquidity and support economy.
Economists expect the central bank to confirm its quantitative easing measures today and express commitment towards implementing its GBP 75 billion asset purchase programme.
While trading activity on Thursday may be somewhat subdued ahead of the three-day weekend, several key economic reports are due to be released before the start of trading.
April chain-store sales come out at 8:30 a.m. ET. Chain store sales are an key indicator of retail sales and consumer spending habits.
Employment will likely be back in focus, with weekly initial jobs claims due to be released at 8:30 a.m. ET. At the same time, U.S. international trade gap data as well as import and export price data will also be made public.
At noon, National Economic Council Director Lawrence Summers is scheduled to speak to the Economic Club of Washington.
Asian stocks rallied on Thursday, as the Hang Seng of Hong Kong rose 3 percent and Tokyo's Nikkei added 3.8 percent.
In European intraday dealing, the FTSE of the UK was up 0.4 percent, the DAX of Germany was up 1.3 percent, the CAC of France was up 0.8 percent.
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