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U.S. Stocks May Extend Yesterday's Strong Upward Move

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Stocks may move to the upside in early trading on Thursday, extending the strong upward move seen in the previous session. The major index futures are currently pointing to a modestly higher open for the markets, with the Dow futures up by 33 points.

The markets may benefit from more upbeat earnings news from retailers such as Dick's Sporting Goods (DKS), Nordstrom (JWN), and BJ's Wholesale (BJ).

Better than expected earnings from retail giants Target (TGT) and Lowe's (LOW) helped spark the rally on Wednesday, as traders expressed optimism about consumer spending.

However, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell's speech at the Jackson Hole Economic Policy Symposium on Friday may keep some traders on the sidelines.

Traders are likely to keep a close eye on Powell's speech for clues about the outlook for interest rates after minutes from the Fed's most recent meeting failed to provide much clarity.

On the U.S. economic front, a report from the Labor Department showed first-time claims for unemployment benefits fell by much more than expected in the week ended August 17.

The report said initial jobless claims dropped to 209,000, a decrease of 12,000 from the previous week's revised level of 221,000.

Economists had expected jobless claims to dip to 216,000 from the 220,000 originally reported for the previous week.

After showing an early move to the upside, stocks remained firmly positive throughout the trading session on Wednesday. With the upward move on the day, the major averages more than offset the pullback seen on Tuesday.

The major averages pulled back off their highs of the session but held on to strong gains. The Dow jumped 240.29 points or 0.9 percent to 26,202.73, the Nasdaq advanced 71.65 points or 0.9 percent to 8,020.21 and the S&P 500 climbed 23.92 points or 0.8 percent to 2,924.43.

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region turned in another mixed performance during trading on Thursday. Japan's Nikkei 225 Index inched up by 0.1 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index slid by 0.8 percent.

The major European markets have also turned mixed on the day. While the German DAX Index has inched up by 0.2 percent, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index is down by 0.2 percent and the French CAC 40 Index is down by 0.4 percent.

In commodities trading, crude oil futures are climbing $0.53 to $56.21 a barrel after falling $0.45 to $55.68 a barrel on Wednesday. Meanwhile, an ounce of gold is trading at $1,506.30, down $9.40 compared to the previous session's close of $1,515.70. On Wednesday, gold closed unchanged.

On the currency front, the U.S. dollar is trading at 106.59 yen compared to the 106.62 yen it fetched at the close of New York trading on Wednesday. Against the euro, the dollar is valued at $1.1080 compared to yesterday's $1.1085.

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