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Stock futures charged higher on the heels of a three-day winning streak for Wall Street as traders awaited a slew of fresh economic data.
The markets have been driven sharply higher and lower by developments on Europe's sovereign debt crisis in recent days. Indeed, the blue chips traded in a nearly 400-point range on Wednesday as traders reacted to a constant flow of headlines. However, hopes that Europe would be able to keep the crisis under control pushed the Dow higher by 141 points by the end of the trading session.
On the corporate front, UBS (NYSE:UBS) said a rogue trader will cost the company $2 billion, resulting from unauthorized trades. Shares of the Swiss banking giant were down sharply in pre-market trading.
The American economy is expected to come squarely into focus on Thursday morning, as market participants will receive several important data points.
The labor market has been one of the weakest components of the broader economy as unemployment has remained stuck above 9%, and the jobs market essentially stalled last month. Creating employment in America has also become a major political flashpoint in Washington, with President Barack Obama unveiling a sweeping job-creation proposal last week.
Weekly jobless claims are forecast to have fallen slightly to 410,000 from 414,000 in the prior week. The number of individuals filing for first-time unemployment benefits has been hovering about the 400,000-level for weeks, which has added to worries about the jobs market.
Prices at the consumer level are expected to have ticked higher by 0.2% last month as energy prices eased. Monetary policymakers watch the inflation situation closely, as expansionary policy such as the Federal Reserve has embarked on often increases the chances of boosting the rate of inflation.
The first of the regional Fed manufacturing reports is also on tap for Thursday morning. The New York Fed's Empire State survey is expected to show manufacturing in the New York region continuing to contract in September but at a slower rate than in the previous month.
Later in the morning, the markets are expected to get the more closely-followed Philadelphia Federal Reserve report, which is also expected to show contraction in the manufacturing sector there as well.
Finally, industrial production is expected to have remained unchanged in August after increasing by 0.9% the prior month.
In currencies, the euro jumped 0.41% against the U.S. dollar, while the greenback slipped 0.36% against a basket of world currencies.
Energy markets were in the green tracking a weaker dollar and hopes Greece will be able to avert a default on its debt. Light, sweet crude climbed 58 cents, or 0.64%, to $89.47 a barrel. Wholesale RBOB gasoline rose 4 cents, or 1.5%, to $2.77 a gallon.
As equity markets have rallied, traders have fled safe-haven assets. Gold tumbled $20.20, or 1.1%, to $1,806 a troy ounce. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note climbed to 2.05%.
The English FTSE 100 jumped 2% to 5,329 and the German DAX soared 2.4% to 5,468.
In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 gained 1.8% to 8,669 and the Chinese Hang Seng rose 0.71% to 19,182.