By Steve Goldstein, MarketWatch
LONDON (MarketWatch) -- U.S. stock futures pointed to a stronger start Thursday ahead of a three-day break, helped by overseas data that suggested the global economic recovery is on an upswing.
S&P 500 futures rose 5.1 points to 1,170.30 and Nasdaq 100 futures added 2.75 points to 1,958.50. Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 52 points.TODAY'S INTERNATIONAL MARKET STORIES
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U.S. stocks ended lower Wednesday after ADP surprised economists by saying private-sector employment declined in March, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average falling 51 points, the Nasdaq Composite sliding 13 points and the S&P 500 dropping 4 points.
Thursday will see a number of statistics released, including the Institute for Supply Management's manufacturing survey for March, weekly jobless claims and monthly car sales from Ford Motor Co. /quotes/comstock/13*!f/quotes/nls/f (F 12.57, -0.71, -5.35%) and other manufacturers. See car sales preview.
The key nonfarm payrolls report is due Friday, when stock markets will be shut.
Overseas surveys released Thursday were generally strong, with two surveys on Chinese manufacturing both showing quicker growth in March, the Bank of Japan's key business sentiment survey showing less pessimism, and a U.K. manufacturing survey at its strongest since 1994. See China story. See Japan story. See U.K. story.
The euro-zone manufacturing data showed a stark contrast with German output at its fastest in nearly 10 years while Greek PMI fell to an 11-month low. See euro-zone story.
"Improved manufacturing confidence data both in Japan and in China have underpinned confidence in the global recovery which has spurred on stock markets and encouraging further yen selling around the European open," said Jane Foley, research director at Forex.com. "European PMI numbers added further weight to the hopes that the global economic recovery is gathering momentum."
Hong Kong stocks ended at their highest level in more than two months, and European stocks also saw a strong start to the second quarter.
Oil futures moved over $84 a barrel, and copper futures climbed as well.
Of companies in the spotlight, insurer Primerica /quotes/comstock/13*!pri (PRI 0.00, 0.00, 0.00%) debuts on Thursday after pricing its IPO at $15 a share, above the $12 to $14 a share range. Citi /quotes/comstock/13*!c/quotes/nls/c (C 4.05, -0.04, -0.98%) will still hold 39% of the insurer after the IPO if underwriters fully exercise their options. See Primerica story.
Research In Motion /quotes/comstock/15*!rimm/quotes/nls/rimm (RIMM 73.97, -0.95, -1.26%) fell more than 5% in premarket trade after the BlackBerry maker reported weaker-than-forecast revenue on fewer shipments than analysts had estimated, even as the company's fiscal fourth-quarter profit of $710 million topped estimates. See RIM story.
"RIM's platform was a decisive factor in the historical success of the company, but now the competition has come up with services offering a similar user experience," said Pierre Ferragu, an analyst at Bernstein Research who has an underperform rating.
"In addition, as the center of gravity of the smartphone value proposition gets further away from email and closer to browsing and multimedia sharing, what matters in this new era is multi-tasking, graphic interface, processing power and broadband Web/IP based connectivity, where RIM does not have a technical advantage."
Steve Goldstein is MarketWatch's London bureau chief.