Futures Climb as Jobless Claims Drop


U.S. stock index futures rose moderately Thursday after a drop in claims for unemployment benefits relieved some worries about slowing economic growth.

On Wednesday the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained nearly 20 points andbroke a four-session losing streak and a stretch in which the Dow lost ground for 15 of the last 20 sessions.

European stocks were higher, after hitting a five-week low in the previous session, thanks to a batch of strong earnings results. Asian stocks ended mixed, but mostly higher.

The Labor Department said claims for unemployment benefits fell to 473,000 last week, after claims climbed above 500,000 for the first time since November last week. Economists were expecting a smaller drop of 490,000, on average.

Still, jobless claims still point to a weak labor market. Economists have been looking for signs that employers are hiring.

Later, the market will be looking to see the results of the Treasury's $29 billion auction of 7-year notes, following record-low yields in Wednesday's sale of 5-year notes. The results of the auction will be available shortly after 1 pm. And the Energy Information Administration will be out with its weekly report on natural gas inventories at 10:30 am, after natural gas dipped below $4 Wednesday to a three-month low.

In earnings news, shares of JDS Uniphase fell after hours following the company's fourth-quarter report Wednesday. Also after the bell, TiVo reported a smaller-than-expected loss, and Guess met profit estimates but saw its shares fall after-hours on a conservative forecast for the current quarter.

On the merger and acquisition front, Dellsweetened bid for 3Par trumping a counteroffer from Hewlett-Packard .

Meanwhile Potash still only has a bid fromBHP Billiton despite its active solicitation of alternate offers.

In other news, Officials in India are holding meetings over security officials involving Research In Motion and its BlackBerry device, and developments from those meetings could move the stock today.

- Peter Schacknow, Senior Producer, CNBC Breaking News Desk, contributed to this report.