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Futures Pare Gains as Jobless Claims Rise

Futures pointed to a higher open on Wall Street Thursday but pared gains after a report showed jobless claims rose last week.

Initial jobless claims rose by 27,000 last week. The four-week moving average declined slightly but continuing claims shot up to a record 6.137 million.

Still to come, existing-home sales are due out at 10 a.m. ET.

The Nasdaq is likely to get a boost at the start thanks to strong results from Apple after the bell Wednesday. Sales of the technology giant’s iPhones and iPods topped forecasts, sending shares up more than 4 percent in premarket trading.

At the same time, the indexes all are set to benefit from earnings at Fifth Third bank, which reported a loss of 4 cents a share that nonetheless came in less severe than analyst estimates of 27 cents. The beat pushed shares up about 12.5 percent premarket.

Stocks suffered a late-session slump Wednesday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 both closed lower. The Nasdaq managed to just stay in positive territory at end of trading.

“We need about two to four weeks to recharge the batteries of the market … then we’ll be ready for the next leg higher,” Paul Schatz, president of Heritage Capital, told CNBC.

Futures also pared some gains after United Parcel Service earnings came in lower than expected as the company said the weak economy was dampening demand for the delivery service. UPS shares dropped 3 percent premarket.

Other companies performing well early included eBay, which gained 7.5 percent after a positive earnings report Wednesday, and Barclays, which also picked up 7.5 percent on momentum from strong bank stock movements Wednesday in London.

Shares of CNBC.com-parent General Electric also moved up, gaining 3 percent the day after a contentious shareholder meeting with company CEO Jeff Immelt.

And Raytheon shares climbed 10.3 percent after the defense contractor said its profit grew 14 percent in the first quarter. Positive earnings reports also boosted Hershey by 4.7 percent and Radio Shack by more than 12 percent premarket.

In Europe, Credit Suisseexceeded forecasts with its first-quarter earnings due to strong trading gains and good client inflows. And Novartisalso beat forecasts with its 14 percent decline in quarterly profit.

The auto sector remained in flux as the government wrangled with the struggling sector. US taxpayers are now likely to own a large stake inGeneral Motors as the government could convert a $13.4 billion loan into common stock, sources told CNBC. The move could reduce the company's debt burden.

Meanwhile, Chrysler’sloans could also be converted into stock under Treasury plans, sources told Reuters. The Treasury offered the lenders $1.5 billion of first-lien debt and a 5 percent equity stake in the company in exchange for about $7 billion of debt they currently hold, according to the sources.

Meanwhile, Bank of America Chief Executive Kenneth Lewis claims to have come under pressure from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson to keep quiet about the problems at Merrill Lynch and BofA, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The comments were made under oath to New York's attorney general Andrew Cuomo in February, the paper said.