US STOCKS-Futures edge up, jobless claims on tap

Last Updated: Thu, Mar 07, 2013 13:10 hrs

By Leah Schnurr

NEW YORK, March 7 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures edged up on Thursday, suggesting investors will attempt to hold on to recent gains, with data on the jobs market due to be released later in the morning.

The Dow surged to record levels for a second day on Wednesday, while the S&P 500 inched up to just 1.5 percent below its own record close.

A strengthening economy and loose monetary policy by central banks around the world have pushed U.S. equity markets higher this year. While some expect the market will ease off its current lofty levels, so far, dips have been short-lived as investors look for an opportunity to buy.

"It appears the positive feeling in this market has shifted (the attitude) a bit from waiting for a pullback to put money to work, to not missing a train that's leaving the station," said Art Hogan, managing director of Lazard Capital Markets in New York.

A report on initial jobless claims due at 8:30 am ET (1300 GMT) is expected to show the number of people filing for unemployment benefits rose slightly to 355,000 last week.

Investor attention will remain on the labor market ahead of Friday's non-farm payroll report, which is expected to show the economy added 160,000 jobs in February. Though high unemployment has been a weak spot of the economic recovery, the labor market is seen to be healing slowly.

S&P 500 futures rose 0.5 point and were slightly below fair value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the contract. Dow Jones industrial average futures gained 14 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures added 3.75 points.

Other data on tap includes the trade balance and consumer credit, both for January. [ECI/US}

Investors have also been keeping an eye on policy decisions by central banks around the world. The European Central Bank held its main interest rate at a record low of 0.75 percent, while the Bank of England also held rates steady.

Network equipment maker Ciena jumped 10.7 percent to $16.54 after reporting first-quarter results.

Dell Inc said shareholder Carl Icahn has urged the company to pursue a leveraged recapitalization and pay a $9 per share dividend instead of going private.

Dell founder and CEO Michael Dell has struck a $24.4 billion deal to take the No. 3 personal computer-maker private, but some key shareholders oppose it.

Time Warner said late on Wednesday it will spin off its magazine unit into a separate company.

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