U.S. stock index futures held their gains Thursday following a strong durable goods orders news and despite a report that showed weekly jobless claims gained slightly in the previous week.
Futures had been higher after the Federal Reserve said that interest rates were likely to remain at near zero until at least 2014.
On the economic front, weekly jobless claims gained 21,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 377,000, according to the Labor Department. Still, despite the increase, the figure still held below the 400,000 mark and the underlying trend continued to point to improving employment conditions. Economists had forecast claims rising to 370,000, according to a Reuters survey.
Meanwhile, durable goods orders increased 3 percent in December, the second straight monthly gain, according to the Commerce Department.
The Fed also took the unusual and historic step of setting an inflation target of 2 percent, when it released its economic forecast and said it will maintai its highly accommodative stance to support the recovery.
Meanwhile, Apple continued to gain after the iPhone maker's quarterly results blew past estimates. Apple even briefly topped ExxonMobil as the world's biggest companyby market cap in the previous session.
Elsewhere, political and business leaders continued to meet at the World Economic Forum in Davos with the euro zone debt crisis still dominating discussions. Greece’s private bondholders were also set to meetto decide what action to take after their proposal to accept a 50 percent hair cut on the Greek sovereign debt they hold was rejected as insufficient by European leaders earlier in the week.
European shareswere also trading higher and the euro traded near five-week highs.
Among another flurry of earnings this morning, Caterpillar rallied after the heavy equipment maker posted a 58 percent jump in quarterly profit that blew past expectations, helped by an increased gloobal demand for construction machinery.
3M also gained after the multinational conglomerate reported higher-than-expected earnings. Meanwhile, fellow Dow component AT&T posted earnings that narrowly missed expectations, but the wireless provider still beat revenue estimates, thanks to a surge in new subscribers.
On the M&A front, Amgen said it plans to purchase biopharmaceutical firm Micromet for $11 a share, in a deal valued at about $1.16 billion.
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Coming Up This Week:
THURSDAY: New home sales, leading indicators, 7-yr note auction; Earnings from Motorola Mobility, Starbucks
FRIDAY: GDP, consumer sentiment; Earnings from Chevron, P&G, DRHorton