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Futures Climb Despite Jobless Claims Report

U.S. stock index futures advanced Thursday, despite a weaker-than-expected jobless claims report, boosted by an upbeat exports data in China that raised hopes for a more robust recovery in the global economy this year.

On the economic front, weekly jobless claims rose 4,000 to a seasonally adjusted 371,000, according to the Labor Department. Economists in a Reuters survey forecast a total of 365,000 new filings compared with 372,000 in the prior week.

The Commerce Department is expected to release wholesale inventories data at 10 am ET. Economists expect inventories to rise 0.3 percent, against a 0.6 percent increase in October.

China's export growth rebounded in December, expanding at the fastest rate in seven months. However, China's Commerce Ministry last month warned against hoping for an imminent recovery in trade, saying that world economic growth remained subdued.

In Europe, the European Central Bank held interest rates at a record low of 0.75 percent, refraining from a cut following fledgling signs of life in the euro zone economy and with inflation still above target.

Tiffany tumbled after the luxury goods retailer said its holiday season same-store sales were unchanged from the same period a year ago, below its own expectations, and added its fiscal-year earnings will be near the low-end of its prior estimates.

Ford Motor gained after the automaker declared it is doubling its quarterly dividend to 10 cents a share, just nine months after it announced its first dividend in nearly five years.

Apple's price target was lowered to $875 from $900 at Piper Jaffray. Separately, Apple CEO Tim Cook met with China Mobile's chairman in Shanghai, to discuss what the company calls "matters of cooperation." No details were given, but the meeting is raising hopes that Apple may finally strike an iPhone carriage deal with China Mobile.

Nokia surged after the struggling Finnish handset maker said its fourth-quarter results were better than expected and that the mobile phone business achieved underlying profitability.

In addition, the Energy Department will issue its weekly look at natural gas inventories at 10:30 a.m. and the Treasury will auction $13 billion in 30-year notes, with the results available shortly after 1 pm ET.