- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 26, 2009

NEW YORK (AP) - Wall Street pointed higher Thursday ahead of readings on the nation’s economic output and on weekly unemployment claims.

Investors are eager for more insights into the state of the economy after better-than-expected figures on measures like home construction and retail sales helped fuel a rally in stocks that has lasted more than two weeks.

The economic reports arriving Thursday could provide a mixed view. The government is expected to report in its third and final update to gross domestic product for the fourth quarter that the total value of goods and services produced within the United States contracted at an annualized rate of 6.5 percent for the October-December quarter. The government last estimated GDP showed a 6.2 percent annualized drop.

Traders are bracing for a bad number but can take some comfort in knowing the data is for the already written-off fourth quarter.

Another government report on weekly unemployment claims could be of more interest to traders because it provides a more recent snapshot of one part of the economy. Figures are expected to show that new unemployment benefit claims rose slightly last week while continuing claims reached a new record as laid-off workers face difficulty finding work.



Economists expect the jobless benefit claims will increase to a seasonally adjusted 650,000 from the previous week’s 646,000, according to a survey of Wall Street economists by Thomson Reuters.

Both reports are due at 8:30 a.m. EDT.

Ahead of the reports, Dow Jones industrial average futures rose 86, or 1.1 percent, to 7,766. Standard & Poor’s 500 index futures rose 10.30, or 1.3 percent, to 818.50, while Nasdaq 100 index futures rose 14.00, or 1.1 percent, to 1,247.50.

Stocks ended higher Wednesday after a fractious session. Economic data that came in ahead of expectations brought in buyers and helped offset worries about what some saw as lackluster demand at a government debt auction.

Bond prices fell early Thursday. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves opposite its price, rose to 2.82 percent from 2.79 percent late Wednesday. The yield on the three-month T-bill, considered one of the safest investments, rose to 0.18 percent from 0.15 percent.

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

Oil rose 80 cents to $53.57 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Investors on Thursday will again be looking to Washington, this time for insights into the types of regulation proposed to avoid a repeat of the financial crisis that helped touch off the recession.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is scheduled to testify before the House Financial Services Committee on Thursday to outline the Obama administration’s proposal for extensive overhaul of financial regulations. Officials said the administration will seek to regulate the market for credit default swaps and other types of derivatives and require hedge funds to register with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Administration officials provided details of the plan before the testimony only on condition of anonymity.

Overseas, Japan’s Nikkei stock average rose 1.8 percent. In afternoon trading, Britain’s FTSE 100 slipped 0.1 percent, Germany’s DAX index rose 0.4 percent, and France’s CAC-40 fell 0.3 percent.

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On the Net:

New York Stock Exchange: https://www.nyse.com

Nasdaq Stock Market: https://www.nasdaq.com

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