- Pre-Market Indications

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Indications: U.S. futures rise as jobless claims fall

Stock Assault 2.0 - Artificial Intelligence Stock Market Software

By Kate Gibson and Barbara Kollmeyer, MarketWatch

NEW YORK (MarketWatch) â€" U.S. stock futures retained modest gains Thursday as investors absorbed a drop in U.S. jobless claims, retailers’ same-store-sales results for March and a rate hike from the European Central Bank.

‘The labor market continues to improve but with the pace never fast enough.’

Peter Boockvar, Miller Tabak

Stock-index futures held their advance after the U.S. government said Americans filing for unemployment benefits fell by 10,000 last week, with the four-week average at its lowest level since July 2008.

“The labor market continues to improve but with the pace never fast enough,” Peter Boockvar, equity strategist at Miller Tabak, wrote in an email.

As widely expected, the ECB hiked its key refinancing rate to 1.25% from 1%, marking the first increase since 2008. See more on European Central Bank’s rate hike.

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average /quotes/comstock/21b!f:dj\m11 (DJM11 12,328, -29.00, -0.23%)  rose 23 points to 12,380, while those for the S&P 500 index /quotes/comstock/21m!f:sp\m11 (SPM11 1,327, -1.90, -0.14%)  rose 2.8 points to 1,331.7. Futures on the Nasdaq 100 index /quotes/comstock/21m!f:nd\m11 (NDM11 2,324, -1.50, -0.06%)  rose 4.5 points to 2,330.

On Wednesday, the Dow industrials /quotes/comstock/10w!i:dji/delayed (DJIA 12,389, -37.84, -0.30%)  rose 32.85 points, or 0.3%, to 12,426.75, registering its highest close since June 5, 2008, led by a rally in Cisco Systems Inc. /quotes/comstock/15*!csco/quotes/nls/csco (CSCO 17.79, -0.28, -1.53%)  as all three of the main equity-market benchmarks managed gains.

Portugal seeks a bailout

Portugal follows Greece and Ireland in taking a financial bailout from the European Union. What’s the EU demanding in return?

Steen Jakobsen, chief economist at Saxo Bank, noted a lack of market follow-through Thursday, however.

He pointed to a report that showed the proportion of pessimistic newsletter writers in Investors Intelligence’s weekly survey had dropped almost to its lowest reading since April 1987. The reading fell to 15.7% from 23.1%, the biggest tumble since 1993. Subscribe to Hulbert Interactive to learn more about newsletter sentiment (free trial).

“That is getting a lot of traction among hedge-fund and equity traders,” Jakobsen said. ”It’s an inverse indicator. Too many bears [equals] good for markets; too many bulls [equals] bad for markets.”

He added that there have been 20 incidents of a bear ratio below 20, and “in only three cases has the S&P been higher three months later. Using history, this is an excellent play to short the S&P.”

Earnings season is also upon markets, and Jakobsen cited concerns that margins will be under pressure due to higher raw-materials prices.

“It is, to some extent, beginning to dawn on markets that margins will be a bit of a squeeze and expectations are too high,” he said.

Early Thursday, shares of Pier 1 Imports Inc. /quotes/comstock/13*!pir/quotes/nls/pir (PIR 11.53, +0.99, +9.42%)  were up in premarket trades after the retailer said its comparable-store sales increased 8.9% for the fourth quarter and reported a profit of 48 cents a share.

Shares of Bed Bath & Beyond Inc. /quotes/comstock/15*!bbby/quotes/nls/bbby (BBBY 54.59, +5.20, +10.53%)  jumped in pre-opening-bell trading. Late Wednesday, the home-furnishings retailer reported that fourth-quarter earnings moved up to $1.12 a share from 86 cents a share in the year-earlier quarter. Analysts surveyed by FactSet Research had estimated earnings of 97 cents a share, on average.

Retailers also kicked off same-store-sales reports for March, with Stage Stores Inc. /quotes/comstock/13*!ssi/quotes/nls/ssi (SSI 19.62, -0.21, -1.06%)  saying comparable sales fell 5.3% in the month, while warehouse-club retailer Costco Wholesale Corp. /quotes/comstock/15*!cost/quotes/nls/cost (COST 77.77, +2.78, +3.71%)  reported 13% growth. Get the complete story on retailers’ March sales.

Economic data later in the session include consumer-credit figures for February at 3 p.m. Eastern.

The Bank of England held steady on rates, as expected, while the European Central Bank, also as widely anticipated, initiated a rate rise. See more on European and U.K. central banks.

European stocks gained across the board, with banks higher, chiefly in Portugal, after its government said Wednesday evening that it will ask for international bailout assistance.

Asian stocks traded cautiously, with South Korean stocks off after Samsung Electronics Co. offered weak guidance, while Japanese shares rose as exporters got more support from the yen’s recent fall against the dollar.

Crude oil for May delivery /quotes/comstock/21n!f:cl\k11 (CLK11 110.28, +1.45, +1.33%)  gained 21 cents to $109.40 a barrel in electronic trade on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Kate Gibson is a reporter for MarketWatch, based in New York. Barbara Kollmeyer is an editor for MarketWatch in Madrid.

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