Stock Futures Trim Gains on Jobless Data

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Stock-index futures held on to solid gains amid hopes Greece will finalize its private debt swap, but a disappointing weekly jobless claims report knocked them well off of session highs.

Today's Markets

As of 8:32 a.m. ET, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures climbed 80 points to 12921, S&P 500 futures gained 11 points to 1364 and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 20.5 points to 2629.

The markets have been unusually volatile this week for what has been a particularly tame year thus far. The Dow shed more than 200 points on Tuesday, just to recoup more than one third of those gains the following day. Market participants have been paying very close attention to the ongoing drama in Greece.

At least 57% of private creditors holding Greek sovereign debt have signed on to a bond exchange that will cut the value of their holdings by more than half, according to multiple media reports. Corralling sufficient interest is critical for two reasons: it is a key condition on a rescue by European lenders and it will help cut the country's public debt level down. There have been fears for months that Greece would default, most recently, on its payment that comes due on March 20. Still, the situation remains very fluid, and is subject to change at the last minute, analysts say.

Also on the European front, the European Central Bank and Bank of England both held their key interest rates unchanged as economists expected. The BoE also said it is holding the size of its asset-purchase program steady. Both central banks have to balance the need to keep their economies afloat amid strong headwinds with the risk of inflation.

The euro jumped 0.82% to $1.3257, while the U.S. dollar slumped 0.48% against a basket of six world currencies tracked by the dollar index. The Euro Stoxx 50 jumped 1.7%.

The number of individuals filing for first-time jobless benefits unexpectedly rose by 8,000 to 362,000 last week. Economists expected claims to hold steady an initially-projected 351,000. A report on Wednesday showed the the private sector added slightly more jobs than expected last month ahead of the closely-watched monthly employment report from the Labor Department that is on tap for Friday.

Commodities market were modestly higher, helped by a weak dollar and rallying equities. The benchmark crude oil contract traded in New York climbed 61 cents, or 0.56%, to $106.77 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor RBOB gasoline rose 0.75% to $3.321 a gallon.

In metals, gold gained $15.10, or 0.9%, to $1,699 a troy ounce. The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 2% from 1.979% as traders continued moving out of safe-haven assets.

Corporate News

McDonald's (NYSE:MCD) said its global comparable sales jumped 7.5% in February, lighter than the 7.7% analysts were expecting.

Foreign Markets

European blue chips jumped 1.7%, the English FTSE 100 gained 1.3% to 5865 and the German DAX soared 2.1% to 6824.

In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 rallied 2% to 9675 and the Chinese Hang Seng rose 1.3% to 20723.