Stock futures trade higher as rally continues

Traders will get the latest jobless claims along with a heavy slate of earnings

U.S. equity futures are trading modestly higher ahead of the Thursday session.

The major futures indexes suggest a gain of 0.2% when the Wall Street session begins.

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Traders will dissect a handful of economic reports that could influence trading.

The Labor Department will report on new claims for unemployment benefits for last week. Watch for a decline of 17,000 from the prior week to 830,000. Continuing claims, which track the total number of unemployed workers collecting benefits, are anticipated to slip to 4.7 million, which would be the lowest since March 21.

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At the same time, fourth-quarter productivity and labor costs will be released. Economists surveyed by Refinitiv anticipate that worker productivity declined at a 2.8% seasonally adjusted annual rate last quarter, after jumping 4.6% in the third quarter. Unit labor costs are expected to rise 4%, after falling 6.6% in the September quarter.

The Commerce Department will post factory orders for December.

It will also be a very busy day for earnings with health care being a big focus in the morning when Cigna, AmerisourceBergen, Merck, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Quest Diagnostics report.

Consumer-oriented names like Clorox, Hershey Yum Brands, Tapestry and Ralph Lauren will also report.

After the closing bell investors’ attention will turn to News Corp., Ford Motor, Activision Blizzard and Peloton among others.

In Europe, London's FTSE gained 0.1%, Germany's DAX added 0.5% and France's CAC rose 0.5%,

In Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 slipped 1.1%, Hong Kong's Hang Seng lost 0.7% and China's Shanghai Composite was down 0.4%.

Wall Street ended with modest gains, with the S&P 500 inched up 3.86 points, or 0.1%, to 3,830.17, after swinging between a gain of 0.6% and a loss of 0.3%. The tiny gain extended the benchmark index's winning streak to a third day.

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
I:DJI DOW JONES AVERAGES 33290.08 -533.37 -1.58%
SP500 S&P 500 4166.45 -55.41 -1.31%
I:COMP NASDAQ COMPOSITE INDEX 14030.375849 -130.97 -0.92%

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 36.12 points, or 0.1%, to 30,723.60. The tech-heavy Nasdaq slipped 2.23 points, or less than 0.1%, to 13,610.54. The index had briefly been above its all-time high set last week.

Investors continued to watch shares of companies such as GameStop and AMC Entertainment, which notched modest gains Wednesday. GameStop rose 2.7% and AMC climbed 14.7%. The stocks have been caught up in a speculative frenzy by traders in online forums who seek to inflict damage on Wall Street hedge funds that have bet the stocks would fall.

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Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has called for a meeting with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Federal Reserve and others to discuss recent market volatility and to determine “whether recent activities are consistent with investor protection and fair and efficient markets,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.

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In energy trading, benchmark U.S. crude gained 46 cents to $56.15 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It picked up 93 cents to $55.69 per barrel on Wednesday. Brent crude, the international standard, added 38 cents to $58.84 a barrel.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.