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Stocks futures modestly higher after drop in claims

U.S. stock-index futures advanced on Thursday after weekly jobless claims fell more than expected and as Russia banned imports of many Western foods in retaliation for sanctions imposed against it for backing rebels in Ukraine.

The government reported the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits last week declined by 14,000 to 289,000, and the four-week average fell to 293,500, the lowest since 2006.

European shares were mixed after the European Central Bank held interest rates unchanged, as expected, with the decision coming after the ECB reduced its deposit rate below zero in June.

At a news conference after the ECB move, ECB President Mario Draghi "is acknowledging that what is going on with Russia could hurt growth On actual policy, there is no change as it will take months to unveil the policies he already laid out in June," emailed Peter Boockvar, chief market analyst at The Lindsey Group.

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Second-quarter earnings season is trailing off, with Wendy's reporting quarterly profit just shy of estimates and revenue that exceeded forecasts. Shares of the fast-food chain were up more than 2 percent in pre-market trading.

News Corp will post numbers after Wall Street closes.

Investors will also eye DISH Network Corporation on Thursday, on reports that it could make a bid for T-Mobile U.S., after Sprint backed away from its offer.

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