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US stock-index futures remain mixed after jobless claims; Yellen in focus

U.S. stock-index futures pointed to a mixed open on Wall Street on Thursday following dovish remarks from U.S. Federal Reserve Vice Chair Janet Yellen, who is set to become the central bank's next chairman.

Economic datayielded little reaction from stock futures, which remained mixed after the government reported more Americans than forecast filed for jobless benefits last week, with claims dipping by 2,000 to 339,000, above expectations for 331,000.

Separately, the U.S. trade deficit widened more than anticipated in September, with the U.S. trade gap widening 8.0 percent to $41.8 billion.

Ahead of her confirmation hearing before the Senate Banking Committee on Thursday at 10 a.m. Eastern, Yellen released a statement after Wednesday's U.S. market close on the outlook for the U.S. economy.

She said the Federal Reserve needs to do more work to support the economic recovery before it can return to "a more normal approach" to monetary policy, echoing the sentiment of Chairman Ben Bernanke.

While she noted that the U.S. economy has made progress, she also voiced her concern over the unemployment rate being too high at 7.3 percent and said inflation remained below the Fed's 2 percent target.

The remarks caused Asian and European equity markets to rally on Thursday as investors cheered the pro-stimulus remarks from Yellen, who is set to replace Bernanke in January.

The euro fell against the dollar after data from the euro zone on Thursday showed that the 17-strong bloc's economy grew by just 0.1 percent in the third quarter of 2013, marking a slowdown from an expansion of 0.3 percent in the second quarter. Analysts polled by Reuters had forecast that the euro zone would report growth of 0.2 percent in the third quarter.

Cisco's shares were sharply lower after the company said sales in the current quarter will drop by as much as 10 percent. Shares of retailer Kohl's also tumbled after its earnings missed analysts' estimates and it said its same-store sales fell 1.6 percent.

Wal-Mart Stores reported a 2.8 percent increase in third-quarter profit, but its shares slipped after the world's biggest retailer posted a sales shortfall and trimmed its outlook for the year.

Companies reporting after the bell include Agilent, Applied Materials and Nordstrom.


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