Stock Futures Hold Gains Despite Weak Data

By MarketsFOXBusiness

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U.S. stock-index futures climbed on Thursday as traders shrugged off two disappointing economic reports.

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As of 8:40 a.m. ET, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures rose 12 points, or 0.07%, to 16501, S&P 500 futures advanced 1 point, or 0.05%, to 1884 and Nasdaq 100 futures were flat at 3658.

The broad S&P 500 logged yet another record high on Wednesday, supported by upbeat data on private-sector employment from payroll processor ADP.

The economic calendar is heavy on Thursday.

The European Central Bank held its main refinancing rate at a historic low of 0.25%, as expected. The move comes as policymakers fret about low levels of inflation. ECB President Mario Draghi is expected to speak later in the day.

"Draghi though will likely be extremely dovish ... and we’ll see if he outlines any new steps to help small business lending and we’ll also get his thoughts on the possibility of other unconventional options they have if they don’t get the increase in consumer prices in coming months that they want," Peter Boockvar, chief market analyst at The Lindsey Group, wrote in an email.

The Commerce Department said the U.S. trade deficit widened in February to $42.3 billion, from $39.28 billion the month prior. Wall Street expected the gap to shrink to $38.5 billion.The data are a lagging indicator, but they'll figure directly into first-quarter gross domestic product estimates.

Meanwhile, the Labor Department reported the number of Americans filing for first-time unemployment benefits rose last week to 326,000 from a downwardly revised 310,000 the week prior. Economists expected claims to rise to 317,000 from an initially reported 311,00.

The Institute for Supply Management's non-manufacturing PMI gauge, due at 10:00 a.m. ET, is forecast to show the American services sector having expanded at a slightly faster pace in March than in February.

The all-important monthly jobs report is due out on Friday.

Elsewhere, in corporate news, federal regulators are probing Citigroup (NYSE:C) over the fraud that sparked a loss in its Mexican unit, according to a report from the New York Times.

In commodities, U.S. crude oil futures fell 30 cents, or 0.3%, to $99.32 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline inched lower by 0.04% to $2.866 a gallon. Gold slumped $6.40, or 0.5%, to $1,284 a troy ounce.

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