US stock futures rise on new signs of labour market improvement; retailers post February sales

NEW YORK, N.Y. – U.S. stock futures rose Thursday with early economic figures pointing to a better employment landscape.

Dow Jones industrial futures rose 29 points to 14,294. The broader S&P futures added 2.5 points to 1,541.60. Nasdaq futures rose 5 points to 2,793.25.

The Labor Department said that the number of Americans seeking unemployment aid fell by 7,000 last week, driving the four-week average to the lowest point in five years.

Markets appeared to take the weekly data, which can be volatile, as a prelude to the critical February jobs report that will be released Friday.

Economists believe the country added 152,000 jobs last month, and that the unemployment rate fell to 7.8 per cent, from 7.9 per cent.

Also on Thursday, the Commerce Department reported that the nation’s trade deficit widened in January to $44.4 billion, an increase of 16.5 per cent from December.

However, December saw exports soar to near-record highs, which drove down the trade deficit. The latest report shows U.S. exports falling 1.2 per cent, reflecting declines in sales to Europe, China, Japan and Brazil.

At home, retailers are posting some mixed sales numbers for February.

Costco topped Wall Street expectations as comparable store sales rose 6 per cent.

Pier 1 also topped Wall Street expectations, though it also released an earnings forecast that some considered conservative.

Comparable store sales at specialty retailers Zumiez and The Buckle fell.