By Polya Lesova, MarketWatch
LONDON (MarketWatch) â" U.S. stock futures edged higher on Thursday, tracking gains in European and Japanese equities, as investors awaited data on weekly jobless claims and sales reports from retailers.
Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average /quotes/comstock/21b!f:dj\h11 (DJH11 11,698, +34.00, +0.29%) Â gained 34 points to 11,698 and S&P 500 index futures /quotes/comstock/21m!f:sp\h11 (SPH11 1,274, +2.10, +0.17%) Â rose 4 points to 1,275.80.
Nasdaq 100 futures /quotes/comstock/21m!f:nd\h11 (NDH11 2,274, +4.25, +0.19%) Â advanced 7.75 points to 2,277.50.
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A report on weekly jobless claims is due at 8:30 a.m. Eastern time, which will give more clues on the state of the U.S. labor market ahead of Fridayâs closely watched report on nonfarm payrolls.
Data on Wednesday showed a sharp rise in U.S. private-sector employment for December, boosting sentiment on Wall Street. The blue-chip Dow index /quotes/comstock/10w!i:dji/delayed (DJIA 11,723, +31.71, +0.27%) Â closed up 0.3%.
âBoth today and tomorrow will center around nonfarm payrolls, especially after the incredible beat delivered by the ADP employment report,â said Mads Koefoed, market strategist at Saxo Bank.
Private-sector employment surged by a record 297,000 in December, Automatic Data Processing Inc.âs report showed on Wednesday. The number was well above market expectations.
âPeople are revising their estimates [for nonfarm payrolls] up and that is what is fueling the stock market at the moment,â Koefoed said. âWhat weâve seen over the last couple of months has been very solid data from the U.S. from all parts of the economy except the labor markets.
âIt seems that now this remaining stubborn sector is improving and that will really fuel sentiment that the U.S. economy is in a robust recovery,â he said.
Retailers report December sales
U.S. retailers, such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. /quotes/comstock/13*!wmt/quotes/nls/wmt (WMT 54.41, -0.36, -0.66%) and Macyâs Inc. /quotes/comstock/13*!m/quotes/nls/m (M 24.97, -0.12, -0.48%) , are reporting December same-store sales on Thursday.
Discounter Costco Wholesale Corp. /quotes/comstock/15*!cost/quotes/nls/cost (COST 70.99, -1.34, -1.85%) Â said its same-store sales rose 6% in December, while those at home-furnishings retailer Pier 1 Imports Inc. /quotes/comstock/13*!pir/quotes/nls/pir (PIR 10.66, +0.27, +2.60%) Â increased 10.3%.
On the earnings front, Monsanto Co. /quotes/comstock/13*!mon/quotes/nls/mon (MON 69.13, +0.34, +0.49%) , the giant supplier of agricultural products for farmers, is expected to report a fiscal first-quarter profit of 1 cent a share.
U.S.-listed shares of oil giant BP PLC /quotes/comstock/13*!bp/quotes/nls/bp (BP 46.50, +0.24, +0.52%) Â /quotes/comstock/23s!a:bp. (UK:BP. 509.70, +10.45, +2.09%) Â gained nearly 2% in premarket trading, as investors appeared to shrug off news that a U.S. presidential commission concluded that the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the worst in the nationâs history, resulted from âa failure of managementâ at BP, Halliburton Co. /quotes/comstock/13*!hal/quotes/nls/hal (HAL 39.42, -0.13, -0.33%) Â and Transocean Ltd. /quotes/comstock/13*!rig/quotes/nls/rig (RIG 73.25, +3.60, +5.17%) .
/quotes/comstock/13*!rig/quotes/nls/rig (RIG 73.25, +3.60, +5.17%) Shares of Transocean gained 1% in premarket trading.
In other premarket trading, shares of ARM Holdings PLC /quotes/comstock/15*!armh/quotes/nls/armh (ARMH 21.88, +0.79, +3.75%) Â /quotes/comstock/23s!a:arm (UK:ARM 508.00, +36.60, +7.76%) Â rallied 10% after software giant Microsoft Corp. /quotes/comstock/15*!msft/quotes/nls/msft (MSFT 28.00, -0.09, -0.31%) Â announced that the next version of Windows will support ARM-based systems.
Asian stocks ended mixed overnight. Japanâs Nikkei Stock Average rallied 1.4%, while Chinaâs Shanghai Composite dropped 0.5%. See Asia Markets.
In the currency markets, the euro fell 0.4% to $1.3120. The dollar index /quotes/comstock/11j!i:dxy0 (DXY 80.32, +0.07, +0.08%) , which tracks the performance of the greenback against a basket of other major currencies, gained 0.1% to 80.339.
Gold futures were little changed at $1,374 an ounce, while oil futures dropped 29 cents to $90.01 a barrel.
Polya Lesova is chief of MarketWatchâs London bureau.Powered By iWebRSS.com