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US stock futures retain strong gains after US economic data

U.S. stock index futures held their gains on Thursday after U.S. economic data had the U.S. economy growing 2.8 percent in the third quarter and jobless claims falling last week, with Wall Street on track to extend its record advance.

Stock futures had turned positive after the European Central Bank surprised traders by cutting its key interest rate in a bid to fend off the potential danger of deflation. Though the rate cut was not entirely unexpected, market consensus had been that the ECB probably would wait until its next meeting to cut. The bank's move to lower the rate to 0.25 percent was enough to give a substantial boost to futures, which had been trading around even or slightly negative before the 7:45 am ET announcement.

The decision came as U.S. investors look for clearer signs about where the domestic economy is heading to help figure when the Federal Reserve might start slowing its $85-billion monthly asset purchases. The U.S. central bank last week held its policy, which also includes a near-zero target for its key short-term lending rate.

Thursday's data comes ahead of non-farm payrolls on Friday. Economists expect to see 125,000 jobs added according to economists polled by Reuters, which would be the second-lowest number of jobs added of 2013 and thatthe unemployment rate has ticked up to 7.3 percent from 7.2 percent.

The Fed's monetary committee noted last week that it had "decided to await more evidence that progress will be sustained before adjusting the pace of its purchases," a factor that could be determined by the forthcoming jobs report.

U.S. stocks mostly climbed on Wednesday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average notching another record close, as investors bought into optimism that the Federal Reserve would continue its stimulus longer than thought.

In other events, investors will be closely watching Twitter's debut on the stock market after the company priced its IPO above expectations on Wednesday. The offering of 70 million shares is priced at $26, just above the $23 to $25 range but below the $27-$28 mark that had also been touted earlier on Wednesday. The offering values the company at $14.1 billion.

Companies due to report after the close include Disney, Priceline.com, Groupon and Great Plains Energy.

—By CNBC's Katy Barnato

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