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Futures Rise After Jobless Claims, GDP

U.S. stock index futures rose after the government reported jobless claims were better than expected, and the reading on second quarter GDP was revised slightly higher.

The Labor Department reported applications for jobless claims fell 16,000 last week, more than expected, down to 453,000, in a positive sign for the job market. The less volatile four-week average of jobless claims dropped to the lowest level in five months.

Second-quarter Gross Domestic Product was revised slightly higher from previous estimates to 1.7 percent, from 1.6 percent, due to upward revisions to consumer spending and business inventories, the Commerce Department reported. Growth was kept in check by rising imports, the government said. While higher, second quarter GDP growth is still sharply lower than the 3.7 percent rate seen in the first quarter.

Despite volatility over the last few sessions, the markets have had a stellar month, with both the Dow Jones Industrial Average & the S&P 500 Index on track for the best September since 1939; the Nasdaq is having its best September since 1998. Stocks struggled on Wednesdayand ended the session lower.

Earlier, futures failed to find on after Ireland sought to draw a line under the debt crisis and Spain suffered another debt-rating downgrade.

Ireland's central bank said that bailing out Anglo Irish Bank could cost $46.44 billion and Allied Irish Banksneeded another $4.1 billion by the end of the year. Irish Finance Minister Brian Lenihan said on CNBC some holders of debt in troubled Irish banks face a severe haircut on their holdings, but the announcements should draw a line under the crisis.

Meanwhile, Spain saw its soveriegn credit rating downgraded to Aa1 from AAA by Moody's. The rating agency said it did not expect further rating downgrades for Spain.

European shares were lower across the board after the news. Asian markets ended mixed but mostly lower with the Nikkei 225 ending 2 percent in the red.

The September Chicago Purchasing Managers' Index, which measures Midwest manufacturing activity, is released at 9:45 a.m. with a reading of 56 expected, which is lower than August's 56.7, according to Briefing.com.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and other regulators will testify before the Senate Banking Committee at 10 a.m. on the Dodd-Frank financial regulation reform law.

American International Group will sell two Japanese life insurance units to Prudential Financial for $4.8 billion.

McCormick's shares rose in the pre-market after the maker of spices and herbs issued a quarterly-adjusted profit that beat market expectations. The company focused on valued-added, higher-margin products, and gross margins rose nearly 2 percent in the third quarter.

On Tap For This Week:

THURSDAY: Corporate profits; Chicago PMI; Hearing on J&J recalls; after-the-bell earnings from Accenture
FRIDAY: Personal spending; NY Fed Pres Dudley speaks; Consumer sentiment; ISM manufacturing index; Construction spending; Monthly auto sales; BP's Hayward steps down

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