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Stock futures push higher ahead of economic data

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[July 23, 2009]  NEW YORK (AP) -- U.S. stock futures are pushing higher ahead of data on the labor and housing markets, as well as more earnings reports.

The slight pop in futures Thursday comes after gains in Asia and amid relatively flat markets in Europe.

Investors will be looking to the Labor Department's weekly report on jobless claims for more clues on the strength of the economy. Investors will also get a report on existing home sales.

Meanwhile, earnings reports from such companies as AT&T Inc., United Parcel Service Inc., Kimberly-Clark Corp. and McDonald's Corp. are expected. Microsoft Corp. and American Express Co. are among those that report earnings after the market closes.


Ahead of the market's open, Dow Jones industrial average futures rose 20, or 0.2 percent, to 8,853. Standard & Poor's 500 index futures added 2, or 0.2 percent, to 951.40, while Nasdaq 100 index futures rose 3, or 0.2 percent, to 1,559.50.

Overseas, Japan's Nikkei stock average rose 0.7 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng index surged 3 percent. The Hang Seng now stands at its highest level since September 10, outpacing the recovery in U.S. markets. Earlier this week, the Dow Jones industrials hit their highest point since January, while the benchmark Standard & Poor's 500 index reached its highest level since November.

In late morning trading, Britain's FTSE 100 was down 0.2 percent, Germany's DAX index fell 0.2 percent, and France's CAC-40 was down 0.4 percent.

Investors have been hesitant to make big moves the past two days, questioning the timing and strength of the economy's recovery amid a mixed batch of earnings reports. Many companies continue to report profits that are better than expected, and some are even giving improved outlooks on the remainder of the year.

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But the bar had been set so low to begin with, and analysts warn that as earnings season progresses, the expectations tend to increase. Meanwhile, sales at many companies are still sagging, a clear sign that consumers and businesses would rather save than spend.

While unwilling to give up entirely on a spring rally that sent the major indexes up as high as 40 percent, investors want more clarity on the state of the economy before taking the market much higher.

Bond prices inched higher in early trading. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves opposite its price, dipped to 3.54 percent from 3.55 percent late Wednesday.

The dollar fell against other major currencies, while gold prices rose.

Oil prices fell 17 cents to $65.23 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

[Associated Press; By SARA LEPRO]

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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