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.

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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 (NYSE: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.

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 (NYSE: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. (NYSE: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.