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US futures edge higher ahead as number of new unemployment claims dip
NEW YORK (AP) ' U.S. stock futures edged higher Thursday after the government said that the number of people who applied for unemployment benefits dipped slightly last week.
The Labor Department said that first-time applications for unemployment dropped 6,000 to a seasonally adjusted 403,000. The number was in line with Wall Street's estimates, but still above the 375,000 claims a week that economists say signals a healthy jobs market.
An hour before the market opened, Dow futures were up 39 points, or 0.3 percent, to 11,483. S&P 500 futures rose 6, or 0.5 percent, to 1,212. Nasdaq 100 futures added 6, or 0.3 percent, to 2,324.
Stock futures do not always accurately predict how indexes will trade once the market opens, however.
Stock indexes in Europe were broadly lower. Benchmark indexes in Germany, France and Italy each lost 0.5 percent. Concerns about Europe's debt crisis have driven much of the market's swings lately.
Officials from the 17 countries that share the euro will meet this Sunday to discuss ways to contain the damage should the Greek government default on its bonds, a move that is widely expected. Investors fear that a messy default will lead to huge losses for European banks that hold Greek bonds and cause a credit crisis similar to the one in 2008 after Lehman Brothers collapsed.
Several large companies reported earnings before the market opened Thursday. Southwest Airlines rose 0.5 percent in premarket trading after the company earned a penny more per share than Wall Street analysts had predicted. AT&T Inc. lost 2 percent in premarket trading after the company said that the the number of new iPhones activated last quarter fell to its lowest level in a year and a half. Drug maker Eli Lilly and Co. edged up 0.6 percent in premarket trading after the company's earnings last quarter hit analyst estimates.
Microsoft Corp. will report its earnings after the market closes.
Stock indexes turned lower in late afternoon trading Wednesday on reports of an impasse in talks to resolve Europe's debt crisis. The Dow closed at 11,504.62, a loss of 72.43 points, or 0.6 percent. On Tuesday the Dow closed half a point below where it started the year.