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Thursday, January 6, 2011

Indications: U.S. futures trim gains after jobless claims

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By Kate Gibson and Polya Lesova, MarketWatch

NEW YORK (MarketWatch) â€" U.S. stock futures posted a mild advance Thursday after the government reported jobless claims rose by 18,000 to 409,000 last week, while the four-week average fell to a 2 ½-year low.

“Holidays and weather likely impacted the data over the past few weeks, but the trend in firings is still clearly down,” Peter Boockvar, equity strategist at Miller Tabak, said of the Labor Department data, which precede Friday’s December jobs report.

Analysts had hiked their forecasts for the upcoming U.S. nonfarm-payrolls data after Wednesday’s stronger-than-expected report on private-sector employment from payrolls processor ADP.

At last check, futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average /quotes/comstock/21b!f:dj\h11 (DJH11 11,630, -34.00, -0.29%)  gained 16 points to 11,680, and S&P 500 index futures /quotes/comstock/21m!f:sp\h11 (SPH11 1,269, -2.80, -0.22%)  rose 2 points to 1,273.8.

Nasdaq 100 futures /quotes/comstock/21m!f:nd\h11 (NDH11 2,271, +1.25, +0.06%)  advanced 2.75 points to 2,272.5.

Oil-spill commission blames BP

A presidential commission investigating the Gulf of Mexico oil spill concludes that systemic failures and avoidable missteps contributed to the disaster.

On Wednesday, the Dow industrials /quotes/comstock/10w!i:dji/delayed (DJIA 11,684, -39.01, -0.33%)  closed up 0.3%.

Retailers report December sales

On Thursday, U.S. retailers including Target Corp. /quotes/comstock/13*!tgt/quotes/nls/tgt (TGT 55.23, -3.71, -6.29%)   and Macy’s Inc. /quotes/comstock/13*!m/quotes/nls/m (M 24.35, -0.62, -2.48%) , reported December same-store sales that missed Wall Street’s expectations.

Discounter Costco Wholesale Corp. /quotes/comstock/15*!cost/quotes/nls/cost (COST 70.94, -0.05, -0.07%)  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 10.89, +0.23, +2.11%)  increased 10.3%. Read more about same-store sales.

On the earnings front, Monsanto Co. /quotes/comstock/13*!mon/quotes/nls/mon (MON 71.02, +1.89, +2.74%) , the giant supplier of agricultural products, reported a return to profitability in the first quarter.

U.S.-listed shares of oil giant BP PLC /quotes/comstock/13*!bp/quotes/nls/bp (BP 46.28, -0.22, -0.48%)   /quotes/comstock/23s!a:bp. (UK:BP. 496.90, -2.35, -0.47%)  gained in premarket trading after news that a presidential panel concluded the Gulf of Mexico oil spill resulted from “a failure of management” at BP, Halliburton Co. /quotes/comstock/13*!hal/quotes/nls/hal (HAL 37.92, -1.50, -3.81%)  and Transocean Ltd. /quotes/comstock/13*!rig/quotes/nls/rig (RIG 73.30, +0.05, +0.07%) .

/quotes/comstock/13*!rig/quotes/nls/rig (RIG 73.30, +0.05, +0.07%) In other premarket trading, shares of ARM Holdings PLC /quotes/comstock/15*!armh/quotes/nls/armh (ARMH 22.46, +0.58, +2.65%)   /quotes/comstock/23s!a:arm (UK:ARM 482.00, +10.60, +2.25%)  rallied after software giant Microsoft Corp. /quotes/comstock/15*!msft/quotes/nls/msft (MSFT 28.33, +0.33, +1.18%)  announced that the next version of Windows will support ARM-based systems.

Asian stocks ended mixed overnight. Japan’s Nikkei Stock Average rallied 1.4%, while China’s Shanghai Composite dropped 0.5%. See Asia Markets.

In Europe, equities traded higher, with the Stoxx Europe 600 index /quotes/comstock/22c!sxxp (ST:STOXX600 281.70, +1.22, +0.43%)  rising 0.8% in early afternoon trading. See Europe Markets.

Kate Gibson is a reporter for MarketWatch, based in New York. Polya Lesova is chief of MarketWatch’s London bureau.

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