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Futures Edge Higher on Jobs Report

The stock market appeared to head for a higher open Thursday on weekly jobless claim reports that showed workers filing new claims for benefits fell more than expected last week.

Initial claims for unemployment insurancefell more than expectedto a seasonally adjusted 550,000 from an upwardly revised 576,000 in the previous week. Analysts expected claims to drop to 560,000, according to Thomson Reuters. The number of people continuing to receive benefits fell by 159,000 to nearly 6.1 million, the lowest level since early April.

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  • Still, the figures remain significantly above levels associated with a healthy economy and indicate that jobs remain scarce.

    Meanwhile, the U.S. trade deficit widened the most in more than 10 years in July as imports grew a record 4.7 percent on resurgent U.S. demand for foreign cars, consumer goods and oil. The trade gap expanded 16.3 percent in July to $32.0 billion, the biggest month-to-month increase since February 1999.

    Wall Street analysts had expected the trade deficit to be little changed from June, which the Commerce Department revised to $27.5 billion from its original estimate of $27.0 billion.

    After a rough start to the month, this September continues to buck historical trends as the worst month of the year for stocks.

    The major averages are coming off a fourth straight day of gains, with the Nasdaq Composite putting together its best four-day gain over that period since July 15-20. The Nasdaq leads the major averages with a 31 percent year-to-date gain.

    Dow component Procter & Gamble rose more than 1 percent in premarket trading after the consumer products maker updated its annual and first-quarter outlook and forecast a return to organic sales growth in the second quarter.

    Texas Instruments , will be in the spotlight after the chip producer raised its revenue and earnings guidance in its mid-quarter update after the bell on Wednesday, expecting to ride a gradual recovery in the global semiconductor industry.

    In the meantime, Monsanto fell almost 5 percent to below $80 in premarket trading after the multinational agricultural biotechnology reaffirmed its results for the fiscal year just ended to be at the low end of its previous forecast.

    Additionally, Oil giant Chevron sealed an estimated $60 billion worth of gas deals with three North Asian buyers for its massive Gorgon project in Australia, paving the way for a final investment decision in coming weeks.

    Still to come, Atlanta Federal Reserve President Dennis Lockhart is expected to speak on the global economy in Jacksonville, Florida at 12:30 pm EDT, while after the bell, two Fed-related events may capture investor attention: At 4:15 pm, Fed governor Donald Kohn participates in a panel discussion on the extraordinary monetary policy measures put in place to deal with the financial crisis, while at 4:30 pm, the Fed releases its latest balance sheet information.

    The Crisis: 1 Year Later - A CNBC Special Report - See Complete Coverage
    The Crisis: 1 Year Later - A CNBC Special Report - See Complete Coverage

    Shortly after 1 pm New York time, we'll get the results from the Treasury's $12 billion auction of 30-year bonds, following strong demand in its 3-year and 10-year note auctions on Tuesday and Wednesday.

    The Energy Department releases its weekly report on natural gas inventories at 10:30 am New York time, while at 11 am, the weekly oil inventory report will be issued. The oil report is a day later than usual because of the Labor Day holiday.

    Health care stocks, which have been extremely volatile of late, will be watched as well, in the aftermath of President Obama's address to a joint session of Congress last night.