NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- U.S. stock futures extended gains Thursday after the government said the count of those filing for first-time jobless benefits fell last week, adding credence to overseas data that suggested the global economic recovery is on an upswing.
Already up, stock futures climbed higher after the Labor Department said those filing claims fell 6,000 to a seasonally adjusted 439,000, while the four-week average declined by 6,750 to 447,250, the lowest level since September 2008.
"The pace of firings in the country has essentially ended," Dan Greenhaus, chief economic strategist at Miller Tabak, wrote in a note.
"This idea corroborates the idea that companies are going to begin adding jobs over the next several months, even ignoring census hiring," he added.
S&P 500 futures rose 7.5 points to 1,172.7 and Nasdaq 100 futures added 8.75 points to 1,964.5. Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 69 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.
The weekly data come ahead of Friday's nonfarm payrolls report.
Reports later Thursday include the Institute for Supply Management's manufacturing survey for March and monthly car sales from Ford Motor Co. /quotes/comstock/13*!f/quotes/nls/f (F 12.87, +0.30, +2.39%) and other manufacturers. See car sales preview.
Goldman Sachs said Ford's 9% drop over the last three trading days is tied to technical moves relating to the selling of warrants by the UAW.
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 encouraged 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.
Distorted jobless numbers loom
Capital markets are looking with optimism to Friday's U.S. labor data, but what can they really tell us?
Of companies in the spotlight, insurer Primerica /quotes/comstock/13*!pri (PRI 19.65, +4.65, +31.00%) 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 4.14, +0.09, +2.22%) will still hold 39% of the insurer after the IPO if underwriters fully exercise their options. See Primerica story.
Lihir Gold /quotes/comstock/15*!lihr/quotes/nls/lihr (LIHR 36.15, +7.99, +28.37%) may jump after spurning a 9.2 billion Australian dollar ($8.4 billion) bid from Newcrest Mining. See Lihir Gold story.
Research In Motion /quotes/comstock/15*!rimm/quotes/nls/rimm (RIMM 69.99, -3.98, -5.38%) fell 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. Kate Gibson is a reporter for MarketWatch, based in New York.