China Export Data Lift Futures

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A round of much better-than-expected export data from China helped keep the positive momentum going on Wall Street despite mildly disappointing jobs data.

Today's Markets

As of 8:35 a.m. ET, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures climbed 34 points to 13359, S&P 500 futures gained 5.8 points to 1462 and Nasdaq 100 futures advanced 16.5 points to 2739.

The markets snapped a two-day losing streak on Wednesday after Alcoa (AA) kicked off earnings season on a modestly upbeat tone. The focus shifted, at least temporarily, to the world economy Thursday. 

China's exports surged 14.1% on a year-to-year basis in December -- nearly three times the 5% analysts were expecting. The data, along with other recent reports, have helped ease fears that the world's second-biggest economy may be in for a hard landing. 

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There are two reports due out on the U.S. economy -- the world's biggest -- as well. 

The Labor Department said new claims for unemployment benefits rose last week to 371,000 from a downwardly revised 367,000 the week prior. Claims were expected to fall to 365,000 from an initially reported 372,000. A separate report may show inventories at the wholesale level having risen by 0.3% in November from October. 

Also on the economic front, the European Central Bank held its main refinancing rate at 0.75%, as expected. The Bank of England held its benchmark interest rate at 0.5% and the size of its asset-purchase program at 375 billion pounds, as expected.  

In corporate news, BATS Global Markets issued a note to clients late Wednesday warning that a "system issue" allowed hundreds of thousands of transactions to be processed at prices that were different from the best ones available in a situation that has been ongoing since 2008. BATS is the third-biggest U.S. equities exchange and processes 12% to 13% of U.S. equity transactions daily. 

Herbalife (HLF) will also hold an investor conference on the day in which it is expected to defend itself against claims from activist hedge fund manager William Ackman that it is basically a "pyramid scheme." Increasingly, the dispute it becoming a clash of hedge fund titans, with high-profile managers picking both sides, causing the stock to fluctuate violently. 

Tiffany & Co. (TIF) shares came under heavy selling pressure after the luxury retailer said its full-year earnings would come in at the low end of its guidance. 

In commodities, oil futures rallied. The benchmark contract jumped 98 cents, or 1.1%, to $94.08 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline climbed 0.81% to $2.8014 a gallon. In metals, gold rose $6.20, or 0.37%, to $1,661 a troy ounce. 

Foreign Markets

The Euro Stoxx 50 rose 0.18% to 2711, the English FTSE 100 gained 0.16% to 6108 and the German DAX climbed 0.27% to 7742. 

In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 advanced 0.7% to 10653 and the Chinese Hang Seng edged up by 0.59% to 23354.