Futures Tick Higher; ECB, Data in Focus

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U.S. stock-index futures edged up Thursday, suggesting the Dow could open in record territory, as traders mulled central bank decisions and mixed economic data.

Today's Markets

As of 8:37 a.m. ET, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures climbed 21 points to 14286, S&P 500 rose 1.8 points to 1541 and Nasdaq 100 futures gained 3.5 points 2792.

The blue-chip average has climbed up to all time highs for two sessions in a row as Wall Street continues its recovery from the financial crisis. The broader markets have made moves higher as well, although, the broad S&P 500 struggled to pick up momentum on Wednesday. It still is trading at five-year highs, but still has 1.5% to go before hitting its record.

The docket of economic events was full on Thursday, with several data releases and central bank decisions. The Bank of England kicked off the day by holding its benchmark interest rate and the size of its quantitative easing program steady, as expected. The European Central Bank also held its main rate steady. ECB chief Mario Draghi is expected to hold a press conference later in the day, where he often provides more information on the central bank's monetary policy objectives.

The ECB has been one of the leading public institutions aiming to dull the eurozone's debt crisis by holding interest rates low and utilizing several special lending programs to help banks across the 17-member currency bloc.

On the U.S. front, the U.S. trade deficit widened to $44.5 billion in January from $38.1 billion in December. Economists expected the gap to increase to $42.6 billion. The trade gap figures directly into calculations of first-quarter gross domestic product -- the larger the deficit, the more it drags down growth.

Meanwhile, global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas said employers cut 55,356 jobs in February, up 37% from 40,430 in January. Planned job cuts were up 7% from the same month in 2012. The Labor Department reports weekly jobless claims fell 7,000 to 340,000, declining for a second straight week. Economists expected claims to rise to 355,000. Continuing claims rose to 3.094 million from 3.091 million the week prior.

The all-important monthly employment report for the month of February is slated to be released on Friday.

In the afternoon, the Federal Reserve releases its snapshot of consumer credit conditions.

In corporate news, Time Warner (NYSE:TWX) said it would spin off Time, Inc., one of the biggest American publishing companies, into its own publicly-traded company. Royal Bank of Scotland (NYSE:RBS) said its banking services were "disrupted" overnight, but fixed by Thursday morning New York time.

Oil prices edged up. The benchmark U.S. contract climbed 37 climbed, 0.41%, to $90.78 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline fell 0.36% to $3.114 a gallon. Gold climbed $6.70, or 0.43%, to $1,582 a troy an ounce.

Foreign Markets

The Euro Stoxx 50 rose 0.33% to 2689, the English FTSE 100 rose 0.18% to 6439 and the German DAX inched up 0.13% to 7930.

In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 edged up 0.3% to 11968 and the Chinese Hang Seng slipped 0.03% to 11968.