Stock Futures Rise Amid Upbeat Data

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A round of encouraging data on the American economy helped lift U.S. stock-index futures on Thursday.

Today's Markets

As of 8:42 a.m. ET, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures rose 27 points, or 0.17%, to 16366, S&P 500 futures advanced 3.8 points, or 0.19%, to 1871 and Nasdaq 100 futures climbed 10.5 points, or 0.28%, to 3717.

The world economy was in focus on Thursday.

The Commerce Department reported retail sales rose 0.3% in February, slightly higher than the 0.2% pick-up economists expected. Excluding the auto segment, sales rose 0.3%, verses expectations of a 0.2% gain.Retail data have been particularly affected by harsh weather that swept across the country in January and February.

Meanwhile, the Labor Department said the number of Americans filing for first-time unemployment benefits fell last week to 315,000 from an upwardly revised 324,000 the week prior. Wall Street was looking for claims to rise to 330,000 from an initially reported 323,000.

Another report from Labor showed U.S. import prices rose 0.9% in February, more than the 0.4% gain Wall Street expected. Export prices, meanwhile, rose 0.6%, also higher than the 0.2% pick-up analysts were looking for. Both gains were the largest increases in a year.

Chinese industrial production climbed at a lower-than-expected 8.6% rate in January through February. Other metrics, such as disappointing retail sales, have sparked concerns about whether the pace at growth in the world's second-biggest economy will sharply slow down.

"The drop-off in industrial production growth, fixed asset investment, retail sales and electricity production confirmed to our economists’ the weakening of China’s economic momentum, while the relatively modest slowing in property investment growth ... bolstered their belief that the property sector poses the single largest risk to China’s outlook," analysts at Nomura wrote to clients.

Commodity markets stabilized. U.S. crude oil futures rose 29 cents, or 0.31%, to $98.28 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline dipped 0.08% to $2.954 a gallon. Gold fell $1.70, or 0.12%, to $1,369 a troy ounce.

In corporate news, William Sonoma (NYSE:WSM) posted better-than-expected quarterly profits.