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U.S. stock-index futures pointed higher Thursday, suggesting the Dow might extend its longest winning streak since 1996, as traders responded to better-than-expected data on the U.S. labor market.
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As of 8:38 a.m. ET, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures rose 20 points to 14418, S&P 500 futures climbed 3.8 points to 1554 and Nasdaq 100 futures jumped 10.8 points to 2804.
The blue-chip average posted its ninth-straight daily advance Wednesday, and ended in record territory for the seventh day in a row. Meanwhile the broader, and more closely watched, S&P 500 is only 0.7% off the record high it logged in 2007. Trading was light on the day, with volume coming in at the fifth lowest of the year.
Traders got a handful of reports on the U.S. economy Thursday. The number of people filing for first-time jobless benefits fell by 10,000 to 332,000 last week, the Labor Department said, better than estimates of 350,000. The four-week moving average, which helps smooth volatility, dropped to 346,750 -- its lowest level since March 2008.
The monthly jobs report for February showed a dramatically bigger-than-expected payroll gain, which has economists taking a more bullish take on the labor market. Market participants are paying especially close attention to jobs data since the Federal Reserve has hinted that it could taper asset purchases earlier than expected if the labor market heats up.
A different report from Labor showed inflation at the wholesale level rising 0.7% in February from the month before, which matched forecasts. Excluding the food and energy components, prices at the producer level climbed 0.2%, also inline with forecasts. Inflation is another gauge the Fed watches very closely -- although the central bank has repeatedly said so-called inflation expectations are running at or below target levels.
On the corporate front, the Fed is set to release its second round of stress tests on the biggest U.S. banks. This round will focus on how balance sheets will be impacted by proposed capital and dividend plans. The first set, released last week, showed all but one bank surviving a hypothetical economic storm better than it would have during the financial crisis, suggesting banks have bolstered their balance sheets.
Samsung is set to unveil its latest smartphone, the Galaxy S4, that is powered Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android operating system. Analysts have noted that the Android phones, along with others like those from BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY) could chip away at Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) dominance in the U.S. marketplace.
On the European front, the European Council will hold a summit in Brussels on the day. The group that consists of European Union heads of state is expected to discuss a wide range of issues, including fiscal plans for several major countries, including France, and potentially a bailout program for Cyprus.
The troika, which is made up of the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund, said "significant progress" has been made on Greece, but issues still remain. The group will take a break until April to perform technical work.
Elsewhere, oil futures slipped 27 cents, or 0.29%, to $92.25 a barrel. New York Harbor gasoline sold off by 1.2% to $3.107 a gallon. In metals, gold dropped $8.80, or 0.55%, to $1,580 a troy ounce.
The Euro Stoxx 50 climbed 0.99% to 2731, the English FTSE 100 rose 0.36% to 6505 and the German DAX jumped 0.79% to 8035.
In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 rallied 1.2% to 12381 and the Chinese Hang Seng edged up 0.28% to 22619.