* Futures up: S&P 5 pts, Dow 37 pts, Nasdaq 8.75 pts
* Investors set to push rally further into record highs
* Initial jobless claims unexpectedly fell last week
By Leah Schnurr
NEW YORK, March 7 (Reuters) - Wall Street was set to start
higher on Thursday as investors attempt to push the rally
further after the latest economic data suggested a pick-up in
the labor market recovery.
The Dow surged to record levels for a second day on
Wednesday, while the S&P 500 sits just 1.5 percent below its own
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
Data showed the number of Americans filing claims for
unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell last week to a
seasonally adjusted 340,000. It was the second straight week of
declines and futures added to gains shortly after the data.
"It's certainly welcoming to the market and it's once again
supporting the thought that the economic recovery is
strengthening," said Andrew Wilkinson, chief economic strategist
at Miller Tabak & Co. LLC in New York.
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. While it has been a soft
spot in the economic recovery, the labor market is seen as
Economists say job gains of at least 250,000 per month over
a sustained period are needed to have a significant impact on
the unemployment rate.
S&P 500 futures rose 5 points and were above 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 37
points, and Nasdaq 100 futures added 8.75 points.
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.
During a press conference ECB President Mario Draghi said the
ECB's monetary policy remains accommodative.
Network equipment maker Ciena jumped 14.8 percent
to $17.15 in premarket trading after it reported a smaller
Colgate-Palmolive rose 1.6 percent to $117.20 after
it said it was planning a two-for-one stock split and would
increase its dividend.
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. Its shares edged up 0.2 percent at
$14.35 in the premarket.