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Futures Gain After Jobless Report

CNBC.com
Thursday, 9 Dec 2010 | 9:12 AM ET

U.S. stock index futures added slightly to gains Thursday after weekly jobless claims fell more than expected.

Initial claims for unemployment benefits fell by 17,000 to 421,000, according to the U.S. Labor Department. That's less than the 425,00 forecasted by economists surveyed by Reuters. The four-week moving average fell by 4,000 to 427,500, near a two-year low, the Labor Department said.

In the previous week, claims were revised up to 438,000 from 436,000, the government said.

Markets have wobbled over the past several days, while investors have ditched bonds amid concerns over whether a recent tax deal in Washington would threaten financial stability, and if inflation is on the horizon.

Treasurys were hit by their worst two-day selloff since the collapse of Lehman Brothers this week, sending yields sharply higher, in the wake of an agreement between President Obama and Republicans to extend the Bush-era tax cuts for a further two years.

The rising yields were a signal of stronger economic times ahead, Dennis Gartman, founder The Gartman Letter, told CNBC.

"It's not a negative story, it's a positive story. Rates are going higher for a number of reasons, but I don't think you can discount the importance of increasing demand, increasing strength in the U.S. economy," Gartman said.

Bond yields eased off their highs in early trading Thursday, with the benchmark 10-year note yield slipping to 3.25 percent and the 30-year long bond at 4.45 percent.

European shares extended gains from the previous session with technology stocks showing the strongest rise. The Bank of England kept its monetary policy on hold, as widely expected.

Asian indexes closed mostly higher, but Chinese stocks saw sharp losses.

In other U.S. economic news, October wholesale inventories will be be released at 10 a.m., with economists expecting a rise of 0.7 percent, according to Briefing.com.

In corporate news, Morgan Stanley is planning to cut its bonus payments by up to 15 percent this year due to volatile market conditions, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing a person familiar with the situation.

Dell rose slightly in the premarket after news it was in "advanced discussions" to buy Compellent Technologies , a data storage solutions company. Compellent's shares fell.

Shares of Conagra fell in the premarket after the maker of Chef Boy-Ar-Dee pastas and Healthy Choice meals cut its 2011 outlook after disappointing fiscal second-quarter results.

Sirius XM Radio gained after radio host Howard Stern said he was staying with the satellite radio station, although the terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Lululemon Athletica soared in the premarket after reporting its profit nearly doubled in third quarter as strong sales continued for its yoga clothes. Lululemon's net income rose to $25.7 million, or 36 cents a share, in the quarter ended Oct. 31, up from $14.1 million a year ago, and more than the 25 cents a share forecasted by analysts.

And the philanthropic campaign led by Warren Buffett and Bill Gates is set to get a cash injection after another seventeen U.S. billionaires pledged at least half their fortunes to the cause. Facebook co-founders Mark Zuckerberg and Dustin Moskovitz are among the donors.

Meanwhile, a watered-down spending bill has been approved by the House as the Democrats seek to lock in current spending levels before Republicans take control of the House in January.

On Tap This Week:

THURSDAY: Wholesale inventories, 30-year Treasury bond auction, DuPont investor day
FRIDAY: International trade, import and export prices, consumer sentiment, and Treasury budget

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