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Stocks Rise After Jobless Drop; Palm Jumps

Stocks opened slightly higher Thursday after reports showed jobless claims fell last week and retail sales ticked higher in May.

Initial claims for unemployment benefits fell by 24,000last week to 601,000, a much sharper drop than expected. This comes after the May jobs report showed an unexpectedly small number of job losses.

Meanwhile, retail sales rose 0.5 percent in May, the first gain in three months, boosted by rising gasoline prices. April sales were revised to show a 0.2-percent drop, half the 0.4-percent decline initially reported.

And business inventories shrunk by 1.1 percent in April, the eight straight month that businesses have pared back their inventories.

Bond yields will also be in focus today as the results of the government's 30-year Treasury auction are due out at 1 pm ET.

Investors have become increasingly concerned about bond yields, as evidenced by a negative reaction to yesterday's 10-year note auction, which saw a higher than expected yield of 3.99 percent, which briefly sent the 10-year yield above 4 percent.

Bank of America rose after KBW raised its rating on the stock to "outperform" from "market perform," citing valuation and its balance sheet.

Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis will be testifying before a House panel this morning amid controversy over how much pressure government officials did or didn't put on Lewis to complete the acquisition of Merrill Lynch late last year.

>> Watch the live feed of Lewis's testimony

UBS shares also climbed after the bank said it doesn't see any additional layoffs.

Goldman Sachs said it remains cautious on regional banks as the pre-tax return for these banks is about 1.5 percent, less than the 2 percent at the bigger banks. Still, Goldman raised its rating on several regional banks, bumping Regions Financial and Fifth Third up to "buy" and BB&T and Huntington to "neutral."

GlaxoSmithKline has begun cutting some of its drug prices in Asia in an effort to boost global sales by making its products more affordable.

Shares of Palm jumped after the smartphone maker tapped former Apple executive Jon Rubenstein as its next chief executive officer, succeeding Ed Cooligan.

Elsewhere in tech land, National Semiconductor fell ahead of earnings from the chip maker, due out after the closing bell.

Japanese stocks were marginally lower overnight, though the Nikkei 225 did briefly break above the 10,000 mark for the first time since October. Ahead of the economic data, U.S. stock futures are pointing to a modestly higher open, while European stocks are trending higher at this hour.

Other events of note include the weekly release of natural gas inventories at 10:30 am, and a speech on the economic outlook by Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank President Dennis Lockhart at 1:05 pm.

Still to Come:

THROUGH FRI: Apple developers' conference
THURSDAY: Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis testifies on Capitol Hill; business inventories; Fed's Lockhart speaks; Earnings from Nat Semi
FRIDAY: Import/export prices; consumer sentiment

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