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Pre-Market Primer: Jobless Claims Fall Back to Four-Year Low, Futures Point Up

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The jobs picture continues to improve as initial claims once again came in lower than estimated.

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Markets got a boost this morning from better-than-expected jobless claims data in the US.

Japanese stocks posted gains, but Chinese equity indices fell as JPMorgan Chase (JPM) analyst Adrian Mowat said in a conference that China is already in a "hard landing" that some economists fear.

"If you look at the Chinese data, you should stop debating about a hard landing," Mowat said. "China is in a hard landing. Car sales are down, cement production is down, steel production is down, construction stocks are down. It's not a debate anymore, it's a fact."

Fitch ratings took its outlook on the UK to negative, though it will keep its AAA status for now. Ernst & Young cut its forecast for the eurozone's GDP this year to a 0.5% decline, down from a previous estimate of a 0.1% contraction. Fourth-quarter employment in the 17-member currency union fell 0.2% from the previous quarter, as expected. In Greece, the unemployment rate jumped three percentage points to 20.7%

European markets are changed only slightly today, with gains on the continent and small losses in Britain.

US stock futures are rising on better-than-expected jobs data. Initial jobless claims for last week fell back to their four-week low; 351,000 filed claims, far less than the 375,000 that economists expected.
  • Dow (^DJI) futures rose 0.18% to 13,154,00.
  • S&P 500 (SPY) futures are up 0.23% to 1,391.90.
  • Nasdaq (^IXIC) futures rose 0.33% to 2,711.75.
The Producer Price Index rose 0.4% in February. This was slightly less than the 0.5% gain that was expected, but more than January's 0.1% rise. The March Empire State Manufacturing survey rose to 20.21. Economists expected the measure of New York-area manufacturing would fall this month.

Today might be the Ides of March, but the backstabbing article in yesterday's New York Times about Goldman Sachs (GS) has taken its toll. Assuming that the awful day for PR is the only reason for Goldman's stock dropping, that little screed knocked over $2 billion off its market cap. Today, it seems to be bouncing back. In pre-market trading, Goldman is up 0.55%.

Capital One Financial (COF) said that it will finance its acquisition of HSBC's (HBC) American credit card business buy selling $1.25 billion of its common stock. Though Capital One forecasts a strong quarter, shares fell 0.82% in pre-market trading.

Israeli media reports that Cisco Systems (CSCO) is considering acquiring London-based NDS. NDS, which develops software for television networks and has a sizable operation in Jerusalem, might cost Cisco about $5 billion.

Guess Inc. (GES) shares dropped 10.90% in the premarket after the retailer forecast earnings below analysts' estimates.

Twitter: @vincent_trivett
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No positions in stocks mentioned.
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