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Stocks to Claw Back Some Lost Ground

US stock index futures pointed to sharp gains for Wall Street Thursday as the market clawed back from a steep selloff Wednesday when the S&P 500 erased all its year-to-date gains amid concerns over the impact of Japan’s nuclear crisis.

Disappointing wholesale inflation numbersreleased Wednesday added to negative sentiment, causing stocks to plunge to their lowest level since the start of 2011.

Besides watching every development in the nuclear crisis Thursday, investors will digest weekly jobless claims and retail inflation data, both coming at 8:30 am New York time.

Claims increased more than expected last week to 397,000. This week, analysts expect initial claims to fall to 386,000, a Briefing.com poll showed.

The February consumer price index (CPI) is expected to rise by 0.4 percent, according to a Briefing.com poll. Core CPI, which excludes food and eneryg prices, is expected to rise 0.1 percent.

Industrial production is reported at 9:15 am and is seen rising 0.6 percent in February. Leading indicators and the Philadelphia Fed survey are reported at 10 am.

The Index of Leading Indicators is expected to increase 1 percent in February while the Philadelphia Fed index is expected to fall to 28.1, Briefing.com said.

The yen will also be in focus Thursday after surging to a new record high against the dollar in late afternoon trading Wednesday.

And developments in Bahrain and Libya will keep oil supply in the spotlight Thursday.

Bahrain arrested at least six hardline opposition leaders, a day after its crackdown on protests by the Shi'ite Muslim majority drew rare US criticism and raised fears of a regional conflict.

In Libya, government soldiers battled rebels on the road to the insurgent stronghold of Benghazi on Thursday as the United States raised the possibility of air strikes to stop Muammar Gaddafi's forces.

Looking to earnings, Fedex reports quarterly earnings before the opening bell, while Nike releases earnings after the close.

Fedex is expected to have earned 82 cents per share on revenue of $9.6 billion in its fiscal third quarter, while Nike earnings are seen at $1.12 per share on revenue of $5.2 billion, according to Thomson Reuters estimates.

And in Europe, the Swiss National Bank kept interest rates on hold Thursday despite an overall improved outlook for the economy, citing risks from Europe's debt crisis and the nuclear disaster in Japan.