Stock Futures Up as ECB Cuts Rates

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U.S. stock-index futures extended gains on Thursday after the European Central Bank cut rates to historic lows in a bid to boost inflation.

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As of 8:10 a.m. ET, U.S. stock-index futures rose 28 points, or 0.17%, to 16746, S&P 500 futures advanced 1.8 points, or 0.09%, to 1928 and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 2.7 points, or 0.07%, to 3746. 

The ECB cut its main refinancing rate to a historic low of 0.15% from 0.25%, and sliced its deposit rate to -0.1% from 0%. The move comes as the ECB looks to boost inflation and economic activity across the struggling currency bloc. The ECB also said it will unveil other policy measures in a statement later in the day. Some economists expect the central bank to unleash a bond-buying program.

Not everyone agrees the ECB will be able to materially lift inflation, or put pressure on the euro by cutting interest rates. 

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"Despite the ECB’s best efforts, the cost of money is certainly not the binding constraint on the European economy and banks ahead of the ECB Asset Quality Review have been more focused on shrinking their balance sheets rather than adding aggressively to their loan books," Peter Boockvar, chief market analyst at The Lindsey Group, wrote in a note to clients. 

"On the euro impact which is certainly a key focus of the ECB, outside via outright money printing, it’s never easy to put one’s [currency] rate to the level one wants for any prolonged period of time."

Meanwhile, the Bank of England held interest rates at historic lows and said it would hold steady its asset purchase target of 375 billion pounds. 

On the U.S. front, traders will get a look at weekly jobless claims at 8:30 a.m. ET. Economist forecast 310,000 Americans applied for first-time unemployment benefits last week, from 300,000 the week prior.

The key monthly jobs report from the Labor Department is due on Friday. 

Elsewhere, U.S. crude oil futures fell 40 cents, or 0.39%, to $102.23 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline dipped 0.22% to $2.929 a gallon. Gold slipped slightly to $1,244 a troy ounce. 

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