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Pre-Market: US Jobless Claims Shrink; China's Alibaba Anticipates New York IPO

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Advances in global markets were stayed by Chinese economic data.

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Stock futures moved toward a higher open on Thursday.

Before the bell, Dow (INDEXDJX:.DJI) futures were up by 0.15% at 16,350. Futures on the S&P 500 (INDEXSP:.INX) rose 0.21% to 1,871.60 Nasdaq (INDEXNASDAQ:.IXIC) futures ticked higher by 0.27% to 3,717.25.

US economic data set the tone for today's session. Initial jobless claims were 315,000 last week, shaving 9,000 claims off last week's reading of 324,000. US import prices increased 0.9% in February, picking up momentum from January's 0.4% advance -- higher fuel prices led the advance, offsetting declining non-fuel prices. Exports rose 0.6%, up from a 0.2% increase in January. Retail sales increased 0.3% from the previous month and 1.5% from February 2013. This follows declines in retail sales in December 2013 and January.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index, which measures American's views on the US economy and their personal finances, will be available at 9:45 a.m. Business inventories will be released at 10:00 a.m. The US Treasury will release its monthly budget at 2 p.m.

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba has said it is "95% certain" it will conduct its highly anticipated initial public offering in New York and not Hong Kong. People close to the process expect it to be one of the largest IPOs in history.

BMW (ETR:BMW) posted surprising fourth-quarter earnings of $2.72 billion, up from $2.61 last year. Revenue fell 1.6% to $28.19 million. The world's biggest maker of luxury automobiles said numbers were bolstered by strong sales of its 3-series cars. BMW has faced stiff competition from Audi (ETR:NSU) and Mercedes-Benz, both of whom aim to top the luxury sales market by decade's end. In related car news, Volkswagen (OTCMKTS:VLKAY) reported it may sell more than 10 million vehicles in 2014, reaching a goal that was anticipated to take four more years.

TV dinners are going out of fashion, as Nestle (VTX:NESN) reports sales of its Lean Cuisine frozen meals have dropped more than 25% in the last five years. Competitors in the frozen meal market ConAgra (NYSE:CAG) and Weight Watchers (NYSE:WTW) have seen similar losses, with sales down 16% and 13% respectively in the past year.

Asian markets attempted to rebound from recent losses but gains were capped by worse-than-expected readings from China. Chinese retail sales growth in the first two months of 2014 was a combined 11.8%, or $690 billion, versus 12.3% in December 2013. Growth in industrial output slowed to 8.6%, dropping from 9.7% in December and missing Reuters' forecast of 9.5%.

European stocks were flat after the news from China. The euro rose to its highest level against the dollar in two years after the European Central Bank kept rates fixed last week and said yesterday that the region has improved "distinctly" since 2012. 

Twitter: @brokawbrokaw
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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