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Futures Rise Despite Small Payrolls Gain

U.S. stock index futures rose after the government reported a much smaller-than-expected gain in jobs in January.

Only 36,000 jobs were added to nonfarm payrollsin January, up from a 103,000 gain in December, the Labor Department reported. The unemployment rate, however, fell to 9 percent from 9.4 percent.

The number of jobs added was far less than the 145,000 analysts surveyed by Reuters had expected. Severe weather throughout the country may have caused a 32,000 drop in construction jobs, the government said.

The move higher in the markets comes a day after the market closed moderately up, although the Dow ended at another 2 1/2-year high,after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke indicated the central bank would continue to stimulate the economy.

Also, a monthly gauge of online demand for labor in the U.S. rose by 7 percent in January from a year ago, although government employment fell.

In earnings news, Aetna reported earnings that easily beat analyst estimates. The insurance leader also boosted its outlook and increased its dividend, sending shares soaring.

In corporate news, Verizonhalted pre-ordersof Apple's iPhone online after less than one day, after what it said was "the most successful first day sales in the history of the company."

Coinstar's shares plummeted in after-hours trading after the company announced a weaker than expected outlook for the first quarter.

Clorox fell after reporting a 3 percent drop in sales, in line with what the consumer products company had expected.

Pulte Group gained despite reporting widening losses due to charges and and a drop in closings and new orders, as investors focused on the company's views that the housing market seems to be stabilizing.Shares rose in Europe as banks rallied after signs that corporate lending is starting to pick up.

And Fortune Brands gained after beating profit expectations, and saying its plans to separate into three companies remains on track.

Most Asian markets are closed due to Lunar New Year, but Japan closed up 1 percent.

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