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Pre-Market Primer: Stocks Push Higher as Jobless Claims Unexpectedly Fall

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We have a full economic calendar today.

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Stocks are set to open higher today as central banks around the world opt not to take action and jobless claims unexpectedly fall.

In a preview of tomorrow's major February jobs report, initial claims for unemployment insurance fell by 7,000 to 340,000.

Economists expected the weekly claims number to rise to 355,000 from the previous week's upwardly revised 347,000. Yesterday's ADP payroll report rose unexpectedly. Tomorrow's release is expected to show 167,000 new jobs added to the US economy.

The US trade deficit widened by 16.5% to $44.4 billion.

Stock index futures were little changed ahead of the trading day. Before the opening bell, Dow (INDEXDJX:.DJI) futures rose 0.10% to 14,279. Futures on the S&P 500 (INDEXSP:.INX) climbed 0.05% to 1,539.80 and Nasdaq (INDEXNASDAQ:.IXIC) futures rose 0.12% to 2,791.50.

This afternoon, the US will release consumer credit figures, which are expected to rise by $700 million on a monthly basis to $14.7 billion in January. The Fed will also release the results of the latest stress tests -- hypothetical scenarios that simulate how well the major banks would fare in an extreme economic catastrophe. The ability of banks to pay out dividends and buy back shares hinges on their survival in these tests.

Today saw a lot of central bank inaction. The Bank of Japan left rates and asset purchases unchanged in its last meeting with former governor Masaaki Shirakawa. Rates will stay at 0-0.1% and purchases at 101 trillion yen. Incoming governor Haruhiko Kuroda will take over next month, when he is likely to introduce radically dovish policy. The Bank of England followed Japan, leaving interest rates at 0.5% and asset purchases at 375 billion pounds. The pound rose on news of the decision. The European Central Bank also left the benchmark interest rate at 0.75%.

Asian and European markets advanced overnight. Japan's Nikkei (INDEXNIKKEI:.NI225) stock index rose above 12,000 for the first time since 2008.

German factory orders unexpectedly dropped 2.5% on a yearly basis in January after falling 1.9% in December 2012. A lack of demand for exports in the eurozone is blamed for the shortfall. French unemployment rose to a 13-year high of 10.6% in the fourth quarter of 2012, an 0.4 percentage point increase from the previous quarter .

Activist investor Carl Icahn is opposed to Dell's (NASDAQ:DELL) $24.4 billion deal that will take it private. It was reported yesterday that Icahn acquired 6% of the company, making him the largest shareholder. He wants Dell to try a leveraged capitalization and pay out $9 per share to investors in a special dividend rather than go private.

Time Warner (NYSE:TWX) will spin off Time Inc., its magazine business, into a public company by the end of the year. The group publishes Time, Fortune, and Sports Illustrated. Shares of Time Warner rose on the news.

PetSmart (NASDAQ:PETM) shares fell nearly 8% in early trading today after forecasting that sales will grow 2-4% in 2013, missing analysts' revenue estimates.

Yesterday Congress passed a bill to keep the government financed through the end of the fiscal year in September.

Twitter: @vincent_trivett
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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