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Futures Edge Higher After Jobless Claims

U.S. stock index futures pointed to a marginally higher open Thursday, rising slightly after a report that weekly jobless claims fell by 6,000 to 472,000,

The drop in payrolls announced by the Labor Department was better than the 475,000 forecast by economists polled by Reuters. Last week's claims were revised up to 478,000 in Thursday's report.

Also, the government reported nonfarm productivity fell 1.8 percent, more than previously estimated in the second quarter and the largest drop since the third quarter of 2006. Consensus forecasts called for productivity to have dropped to a 1.9 percent annual rate and unit labor costs to have risen by 1.1 percent.

Wall Street got September off to a positive start in the previous session, but Friday’s monthly jobs report will likely already have a big effect on market sentiment.

The first session of the month saw the biggest gains for the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq since July 7. Despite the worst August since 2001, the Dow and the S&P 500 have actually risen in three of the past four sessions.

Hewlett-Packard on Thursday raised its bid For 3Par to $33 per share from $30 per share, according to the Wall Street Journal. Dell , which had initiated the bidding for 3Par, had also offered a higher price for the utility storage company and is still involved in the bidding due to the merger terms, the WSJ said.

Retail chain store sales, meanwhile, are showing solid gains, up 3 percent compared with an estimated increase of 2.8 percent.

One of the best performances came from Limited , which posted a 10 percent boost in same-store sales, beating the projected 7.3 percent increase. Costco's August results were also brighter, up 5 percent, beating a projected 3.6 percent increase. Nordstrom's August sales, meanwhile, were up 6.3 percent, compared with the 5.9 percent estimate.

Bleaker results were reported by teen retailers, including Aeropostale , reporting a 1 percent drop in August sales instead of the projected 1 percent increase, and American Eagle , up 1 percent for August instead, not the 1.1 percent projected.

Throughout the morning, August sales figures from the nation's major retailers will be released with the exception of Wal-Mart Stores , which does not put out monthly numbers.

At 10 a.m., the National Association of Realtors will be out with its pending home sales report for July. Economists think home sales that have gone to contract but not yet closed fell 1 percent in July following a 2.6 percent gain in June. Also out at that time is the government's July factory orders report, seen as rising by 0.2 percent after a 1.2 percent drop in June.

Following a day that saw the weakest August auto sales since 1983, Reuters reports that General Motor's Initial Public Offering (IPO) roadshow will begin after the midterm Congressional elections. The IPO will reportedly price on Nov. 17 and debut the following day.

In other news, a JPMorgan Chase executive told Reuters that the company hasn't ruled out the possibility of buying Discover Financial or another payments processing network, even though he said such a deal would be "difficult".

The European Central Bank held interest rates at a record low on Thursday and extended its liquidity safety-net in response to a lopsided recovery and worries about vulnerable banks.

Asian stocks closed higher on the back of Wall Streets positive close.

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