Stock Futures Rise on Economic Data

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Stronger-than-expected consumer confidence data from Germany and a report indicating the U.S. labor market is continuing to improve helped push stock-index futures modestly higher.

Today's Markets

As of 8:37 a.m. ET, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures climbed 18 points to 12934, S&P 500 futures gained 1.5 points to 1358 and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 6.3 points to 2585.

Wall Street has struggled to define a direction during this holiday-shortened trading week. After European Union leaders finally agreed to a second bailout package for Greece late Monday, attention has turned to the global economy.

German business confidence grew more than economists expected in February. The Ifo Institute's closely-watched gauge hit 109.6 in February from 108.3 in January, its highest level since July. Economists were looking for a reading of 108.8 for the month.

The number of individuals filing for first-time unemployment benefits was unchanged last week at 351,000, lower than the 354,000 economists estimated. However, the four-week-moving average, which helps smooth volatility in the weekly report, fell to 359,000 from 366,000, its lowest level since March 2008. The labor market has continued showing improvement in recent weeks.According to analysts at Nomura, this week's numbers cover the survey week for the all-important monthly employment report, so they may prove particularly important.

Oil and gasoline prices have raced higher this week as tension has mounted between Western countries and Iran. At the center of the instability has been fresh saber rattling from the country as the U.S. and European Union have stepped up pressure on Iran to become more transparent about its nuclear ambitions.

The benchmark crude oil price traded in New York rose 41 cents, or 0.38%, to $106.69 a barrel after hitting a nine-month settlement high on Wednesday. Wholesale New York Harbor RBOB gasoline climbed 0.46% to $3.102 a gallon.

In metals, gold gained $8.40, or 0.46%, to $1,780 a troy ounce. Treasury yields were higher on the day, with the 10-year note yielding 2.035%.

Foreign Markets

European blue chips fell 0.37%, the English FTSE 100 rose 0.19% to 5928 and the German DAX slipped 0.44% to 6814.

In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 climbed 0.44% to 9596 and the Chinese Hang Seng slid 0.78% to 21381.