Cautious optimism is still seen on Wall Street, as reflected by the U.S. index futures, which point to a modestly higher opening on Thursday. Along with earnings news, traders may also focus on the jobless claims and trade balance report due to be released shortly before the markets open. Earlier in the day, Australia reported robust job gains for March and the euro area's industrial output showed a surprising rise. Meanwhile, Italy succeeded in raising debt closer to the upper ceiling of its targeted amount.
As of 6:30 am ET, the Dow futures are rising 30 points, the S&P 500 futures are adding 3.75 points and the Nasdaq 100 futures are moving up 7.50 points.
U.S. stocks got a reprieve on Wednesday, as Alcoa's earnings removed some of the dark clouds surrounding the economic horizon.
The Labor Department is due to release its customary jobless claims report for the week ended April 7th at 8:30 AM ET. Economists expect claims to edge up to 359,000 from 357 in the previous week.
Around the same time, the trade gap data for February is due. Economists estimate that the trade gap narrowed slightly at $51.7 billion in the month from $52.6 billion in January.
The U.S. Labor Department is scheduled to release its report on the producer price index for March at 8:30 am ET. Economists expect the headline index for February to have risen by 0.3 percent and the core producer price index may have increased by 0.2 percent. In February, producer prices rose 0.4 percent month-over-month, with higher energy responsible for much of the upside.
Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank President Charles Plosser is scheduled to speak to the National Economists Club in Washington on the "Economic Outlook" at 12:30 pm ET. Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank President Narayana Kocherlakota will speak to the White Bear Lake Area Chamber of Commerce in a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota at 1 pm ET. Also, Federal Reserve Governor Sarah Bloom Raskin will speak to business and community leaders at a Fed conference on "The State of the Economy," in Los Angeles at 3 pm ET.
In corporate news, Oracle (ORCL) announced the completion of its acquisition of cloud-based talent management solutions company Taleo.
Caterpillar (CAT) said it has reached an agreement with a subsidiary of Seven Group Holdings to sell its distribution and support business formerly operated by Bucyrus in Australia. The deal is valued at $400 million.
PC makers may be in focus after Gartner released its quarterly PC shipment estimates for 2012. The firm estimates that worldwide PC shipments rose 1.9 percent year-over-year in the first quarter compared to its earlier estimate for a 1.2 percent drop.
comScore (SCOR) released its monthly U.S. search market statistics. Google led the pack with a 66.4 percent share in the U.S. core search market in March, unchanged from the previous month. Microsoft's search share also remained unchanged at 15.3 percent compared to a 13.7 percent share for Yahoo, down 0.1 percentage points.
Apogee Enterprises' (APOG) fourth quarter results were better than expected. However, the company's guidance was below estimates.
Google (GOOG) and JB Hunt Transportation (JBHT) are among the key companies due to release their quarterly results after the markets close.
Asian stocks rebounded, as Wall Street's optimism latched onto the markets in the region. Japan's Nikkei 225 average snapped its 7-session losses before ending up 66.05 points or 0.70 percent at 9,525.
Australia's All Ordinaries opened modestly higher and advanced steadily over the course of the session, ending up 34.40 points or 0.79 percent at 4,362. Energy stocks led the advance, while material and healthcare stocks also gained ground.
A report released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed that the Australian economy added 44,000 jobs in March compared to expectations for an addition of 6,500 jobs. The unemployment rate held steady at 5.6 percent.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index closed at 20,327, up 186.65 points or 0.93 percent.
The major European markets are trading on a mixed note, with the French CAC 40 Index and the German DAX Index rising 0.20 percent and 0.48 percent, respectively, while the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index is receding 0.09 percent.
In corporate news, French retailer Carrefour said its first quarter sales rose 1.5 percent, while same store sales after excluding currency impact and gasoline, were down 0.1 percent.
Swiss drug giant Roche reported a 1 percent drop in first quarter sales to 11.03 billion Swiss Francs, as organic performance was offset by the negative impact of a stronger currency. Signaling its willingness to raise its already sweetened offer for Illumina (ILMN), Roche said its revised $6.7 billion bid is a more than reasonable starting point for negotiations.
Eurostat reported an unexpected increase in the euro area's industrial production for February, while the U.K. Office for National Statistics reported a wider trade deficit for February.
by RTT Staff Writer
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