U.S. stock index futures gained after news that jobless claims dropped to 385,000 and consumer inflation was in line with expectations, and despite a slight drop in industrial production.
Futures already were higher 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 Japan’s nuclear crisis.
Industrial production fell 0.1 percent, more than expected, as a result of drops in gas and electricity production due to unseaonably warm weather, the Federal Reserve said. But, the Fed said, factory production rose 0.4 percent as more cars, appliances, computers and furniture were produced.
Initial claims for unemployment benefits fell 16,000 last week, while the four-week average for claims dropped to 386,250, the lowest level since July 2008, according to the Labor Department. The news provided further assurances the job market is stabilizing.
Meanwhile, U.S. consumer prices gained 0.5 percent in February, up from a 0.4 percent rise in January, the Labor Department said. That's the largest gain the CPI since June 2009.
Core CPI, which excludes volatile food and energy prices, rose 0.2 percent in February, the same pace as January. Disappointing wholesale inflation numbers were released Wednesday.
Elsewhere in economic news, leading indicators and the Philadelphia Fed survey will be reported at 10 a.m.
The markets appeared to be ready to start Thursday's session in a markedly different direction than Wednesdsay, when all the major indices fell to their lows for the year. Investors Wednesday reacted to the increasingly worrisome news over the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, sending stocks higher and lower depending on developments.