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Pre-Market Primer: Stocks Higher Despite Tepid Economic Data, Italy Concerns


And Wal-Mart has a radical idea for competing with on-demand deliverers.

Stock futures rose this morning despite concerns about instability in Europe and lackluster US economic data on the last trading day of the first quarter.

Jobless claims rose by more than expected last week. 357,000 people filed for unemployment, up from 341,000 in the week before. Economists predicted that claims would total 340,000.

The US economy grew by more than previously thought in the last three months of 2012. GDP rose 0.4%. It was initially estimated as a 0.1% contraction, but the second reading came in as a tepid 0.1% expansion. Economists expected this final revision to come in at 0.6%.

Stock futures pointed higher ahead of the opening bell. Dow (INDEXDJX:.DJI) futures are up 0.15% at 14,467. S&P 500 (INDEXSP:.INX) futures rose 0.08% to 1,558.10 and Nasdaq (INDEXNASDAQ:.IXIC) futures gained 0.21% to 2,807.00.

More data will come out today. Later this morning the Chicago PMI survey for March is expected to report 0.3 percentage point fall to 56.5, indicating strong expansion in Midwestern manufacturing. (Readings above 50 indicate growth.)

After a nearly two-week closure, Cyprus banks reopen today. To avoid an all-out run on the banks, the government placed them under capital controls. Cypriot depositors are barred from emptying saving accounts early unless paying for another loan, leaving the country with more than 1,000 euros in cash, cashing checks, or withdrawing more than 300 euros per day. Transferring money overseas is restricted. So far, the controls may be working, as the lines at the banks are calm.

German retail sales beat estimates, rising 0.4% in February. Economists expected a drop of 0.6%. In March, the ranks of the unemployed in Germany increased by 13,000 to 6.9% of the whole population.

Italian center-left party leader Pier Luigi Bersani is expected to report to president that his party failed to form a coalition government with either of the other parties.

BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY) reported a profit of $0.22 per share, smashing estimates of a loss of $0.30 for its fiscal fourth quarter. This is the first quarter in which the hotly-anticipated Z10 smartphone was on sale. Despite going on sale in the United States just days ago, BlackBerry shipped 1 million of the new phones. Overall handset sales trailed estimates at 6 million.

Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) is contemplating an unprecedented plan in which in-store buyers deliver packages to online purchasers in their own cars. This on-demand delivery service could help the firm compete with eBay's (NASDAQ:EBAY) eBay Now service, which delivers products from stores like Target (NYSE:TGT) to local buyers.

Disclosure: Minyanville Studios, a division of Minyanville Media, has a business relationship with BlackBerry.

Twitter: @vincent_trivett
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