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Stock futures up as Greek crisis nears deadline
Looming Greek debt-swap deadline helps lift US stock market futures; jobs data tempers gains
By The Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) ' U.S. stock market futures followed world markets higher Thursday because of optimism that a plan to ease Greece's debt burden is nearing success, but jobs data coming from Washington tempered the gains.

Dow Jones industrial average futures added 77 points to 12,918. Standard and Poor's 500 futures gained nine points to 1,362. Nasdaq 100 futures rose 16 points to 2,625.

The Labor Department said that applications for unemployment benefits rose last week slightly more than expected, although the four-week average remained near a four-year low. Futures gains retreated slightly after the report was released.

Investors mainly had their eyes on a 3 p.m. EST deadline for private investors to decide whether to swap $140 billion in Greek government bonds for replacements that will be worth far less. If the deal fails, Greece could default by March 20 and rattle the world financial system.

Athens won't reveal the official results until Friday morning, but early signs indicated that enough bondholders would take part in the swap to make it successful. "The resolution of the Greek financial crisis is in sight," Italian premier Mario Monti said.

That optimistic view was reflected in world markets. In London, the FTSE 100 index was up 0.4 percent, while Germany's DAX added 1.9 percent. The CAC-40 in France was about 2 percent higher.

Earlier in Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 index climbed 2 percent. Hong Kong's Hang Seng jumped 1.3 percent, and South Korea's Kospi edged up 0.9 percent. In mainland China, the benchmark Shanghai Composite Index rose 1.1 percent.

U.S. stocks to watch Thursday include McDonald's, which said a key February sales figure climbed 7.5 percent, reflecting slower growth than hoped. The stock slipped 3.4 percent in premarket trading.

Simon Property Group Inc., the largest mall operator in the U.S., announced two real estate deals that total $3.5 billion, including a $2 billion investment in Europe. Shares slipped marginally before the market opened.

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