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Wall Street awaits further job markets news

Friday, 22 Nov 2013 | 8:49 AM ET

U.S. stock-index futures signaled a higher open on Wall Street on Friday, with shares in Asia and Europe building on gains after upbeat initial jobless claims from the U.S.

On Thursday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed above 16,000 for the first time, as the number of Americans filing for jobless benefits declined to a near two-month low.

Ross Stores slid 7.5 percent in pre-market trading after the discount retailer said it anticipates intense competition and discounting during the holiday shopping season, projecting fiscal fourth-quarter profit below Wall Street estimates.

United Continental Holdings rose in early New York trading after billionaire David Tepper told Bloomberg Television that airlines were his "big play in the market." U.S. Steel declined after Wells Fargo downgraded the metal producer to underperform from market perform.

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index was higher in a broad-based rally on Friday, with most sectors posting moderate gains. In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei hit a six-month high and the Shanghai Composite gained 2.8 percent.

"Jobless claims were better on the margins, inflation picked up a little, but no significant change there, and earnings and companies continue to do fairly well. And the market was drifting down, so it puts you in a position where it doesn't take much good news to resume the rally," said Doug Foreman, co-chief investment officer at Kayne Anderson Rudnick.

In addition, Michael Hewson from CMC Markets said investors appeared to have realized that fears of an end to Federal Reserve stimulus measures come December were overdone.

"The better-than-expected weekly jobless claims, under any other circumstances, would certainly have helped reinforce the view that a taper is coming, but given a few hours to digest the contents of the minutes and what they actually said, while a taper may be closer than it was at the beginning of the week the smart money still remains on some form of action in the New Year and not December," Hewson said.

Investors may hope to garner further hints of a start date for tapering when the St Louis Fed President James Bullard speaks on Friday. Earlier in the week, Bullard said a solid jobs report for November would increase the likelihood of tapering starting next month.

(Read more: Fed's Bullard: December taper 'definitely on the table')

Atlanta Federal Reserve President Dennis Lockhart told CNBC on Friday that the Fed would begin tapering its bond purchases when the economy and financial markets are ready.

Further insight into the labor market will be provided with the JOLTs (Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey) report for September at 10 a.m. ET on Friday.

—By CNBC's Katy Barnato

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