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Stock futures rise, point to higher opening

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[March 25, 2010]  NEW YORK (AP) -- Stock futures are rising Thursday as the market appears set to resume its steady climb higher.

HardwareThe rise in futures comes as economists expect a new report from the Labor Department to show initial claims for unemployment benefits fell for the fourth straight week.

Investors appear to be quickly brushing off new worries about European sovereign debt problems and weakness in the housing market that sent stocks lower Wednesday. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 53 points, marking only its second drop in the past 12 trading sessions.

Overseas markets mostly rose a day after Portugal's debt was downgraded. The downgrade set off fresh concerns that European countries saddled with debt would upend a global economic recovery. The debt worries have been one of the few items dragging down an otherwise strong market over the past couple of months.

European leaders are meeting Thursday where they are expected to discuss providing support for debt-burdened Greece.

In the U.S., high unemployment remains the biggest obstacle to a strong, sustained recovery.

The Labor Department is expected to say first-time claims for unemployment benefits fell by 7,000 to a seasonally adjusted 450,000 last week, according to economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters. The report is due out at 8:30 a.m. EDT.

It would mark the fourth straight weekly drop in initial claims, a sign that job losses are slowing and the economy is inching toward jobs creation.

Ahead of the opening bell, Dow Jones industrial average futures rose 23, or 0.2 percent, to 10,810. Standard & Poor's 500 index futures rose 3.30, or 0.3 percent, to 1,167.90, while Nasdaq 100 index futures rose 6.50, or 0.3 percent, to 1,958.00.

Stocks have been steadily climbing for more than a month. The move higher has been largely due to economic reports showing the economy is slowly improving. A disappointing report Wednesday that showed sales of new homes unexpectedly fell to their lowest level on record helped put that climb on hold. The retreat came after major indexes had hit their highest levels since 2008.

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Nursing Homes

A housing market recovery has been a bit more disjointed than other sectors like manufacturing, which has consistently improved over the past few months.

Meanwhile, bond prices rose Thursday. The rebound in prices comes a day after Treasurys were sold off following a second straight bond auction that drew weak demand.

The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves opposite its price, fell to 3.83 percent from 3.86 percent late Wednesday.

The dollar fell against other major currencies, a day after hitting its highest level against the euro in 10 months.

Gold and oil rose.

Overseas, Japan's Nikkei stock average rose 0.1 percent. Britain's FTSE 100 gained 0.3 percent, Germany's DAX index rose 0.6 percent, and France's CAC-40 climbed 0.7 percent.

[Associated Press; By STEPHEN BERNARD]

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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