The Day Ahead: Futures Tick Higher

 | Jan 09, 2014 | 8:44 AM EST
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U.S. stock index futures were pointing to a higher open Thursday morning as European central bankers left benchmark interest rates unchanged and as the employment picture continued to improve stateside. The U.S. indices were coming off a mixed finish in the previous session.

Weekly initial jobless claims fell by 15,000 to 330,000 for the week that ended Jan.4 -- below consensus estimates of 331,000 -- and the Labor Department revised the previous week's claims up 6,000 to 345,000. Coming up Friday is the more extensive monthly nonfarm payrolls report, which will give us a broader picture of employment and the U.S. economy.

In Europe, stocks jumped out of the red after the Bank of England and the European Central Bank left their benchmark interest rates unchanged: 0.5% at BofE and 0.25% at the ECB.

Meanwhile, among U.S. companies, earnings season is set to kick off in earnest after the closing bell with Alcoa's (AA) quarterly report.

This morning, Family Dollar (FDO) missed top-line estimates by a penny and cut full-year guidance below estimates, sending shares down sharply in premarket trading. And Supervalu's (SVU) shares were up slightly after the company delivered an in-line quarterly report.

Late Thursday, Bed Bath & Beyond (BBBY) fell short of quarterly expectations and cut its outlook, sending shares lower in extended trading. Separately, Macy's (M), an Actions Alerts PLUS holding, said it would cut 2,500 jobs and shutter five stores as it shifts focus to online sales. BMO Capital upgraded the shares to Outperform. The stock was recently up about 7% in early action.

Among analyst actions, Actions Alerts PLUS holding Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) was upgraded to Buy at Jefferies. The firm also cut Monsanto (MON) to Neutral.

A couple of Federal Reserve officials are scheduled to deliver remarks later today: Kansas City Fed President Esther George speaks in Wisconsin at 1:30 p.m. ET, and Minneapolis Fed chief Narayana Kocherlakota is due to appear at a town hall meeting in Minneapolis at 8 p.m. ET.

Also, chain stores have been releasing December same-store sales data throughout the morning. Standouts so far include a beat by Costco (COST) and a miss by Pier 1 (PIR).

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