By Barbara Kollmeyer, MarketWatch
MADRID (MarketWatch) -- U.S. stock market futures were sharply higher on Thursday, lifted by China's denial that it was mulling sales of holdings in European bonds.
Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped 200 points, or 2%, to 10,122, while those for the Nasdaq 100 rose 44.50 points, or 2.5% to 1,836. Futures for the S&P 500 rose 26.50 points, or 2.5%, to 1,087.70.
On Thursday, the China State Administration of Foreign Exchange, the agency which manages the nation's reserves, said media reports that it is considering selling some of it holdings of euro-zone government bonds were "groundless," according to a statement published on its Web site.
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U.S. stocks on Wednesday gave up a bounce in the afternoon session, after a late-session lapse that coincided with a report in the Financial Times that China was mulling sales of euro-zone bond holdings. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed off 69.3 points, or 0.7%, to 9,974.45, the first time the benchmark index closed below 10,000 since early February. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite made similarly sized declined.
"It might be that the market reaction to the story underlines how fragile confidence is at the current time and is a worrying sign that the market is very vulnerable to any negative shock," said Gary Jenkins, head of fixed income research at Evolution Securities. "It may just have been a complete over reaction by a nervous market that is in 'sell first and ask questions later mood' that will be corrected today."
Apart from driving up stock futures, the denial by China triggered a rebound in the euro and gains in European stocks, which were already firmer, helped by financials and strong results from U.K. fund group Man. Asia stocks finished higher as bargain hunters moved in after losses, but euro-related fears lingered.
Economic data is also on tap for U.S. markets, with weekly jobless claims and a revision to first-quarter GDP due at 8:30 a.m. Eastern. Jenkins said data is expected to be revised slightly higher to 3.4% annualized growth, from the previous 3.2% estimate.
Shares of Wal-Mart /quotes/comstock/13*!wmt/quotes/nls/wmt (WMT 50.02, -0.26, -0.52%) could be in focus on news its Asda unit reached a deal to buy the U.K. operations of deep discounter Netto in a deal valued at $1.1 billion. Asda is buying the 193 U.K. stores of Dansk Supermarked A/S for 778 million pounds of cash and assumed debt, according to the Danish seller. See related story
Warehouse retailer Costco Wholesale /quotes/comstock/15*!cost/quotes/nls/cost (COST 55.98, -0.52, -0.92%) reported a 46% rise in fiscal third-quarter net income to $306 million, or 68 cents a share, from $210 million, or 48 cents, in the year-earlier quarter. Net sales rose to $17.39 billion from $15.48 billion. A survey of analysts by FactSet Research produced consensus estimates of 66 cents of profit on $17.54 billion of sales.
Several other retailers are also due to report before the bell with quarterly results include Big Lots /quotes/comstock/13*!big/quotes/nls/big (BIG 35.87, -0.23, -0.64%) and Tiffany /quotes/comstock/13*!tif/quotes/nls/tif (TIF 43.59, +0.99, +2.32%) . H.J. Heinz /quotes/comstock/13*!hnz/quotes/nls/hnz (HNZ 44.26, -0.35, -0.78%) is also due to report.
Crude-oil futures was up 2.3%, or $1.66 to $73.25 a barrel, while gold futures fell $2.50 to $1.210.90 an ounce.
Barbara Kollmeyer is an editor for MarketWatch in Madrid.