U.S. stock futures rose early Thursday amid a weaker dollar and hopes for more good news on employment.
Stocks have been moving opposite to the dollar for months, falling when the greenback strengthens and rising when it falls. A weaker dollar makes commodities cheaper for foreign buyers and boosts profits at U.S. companies that do business overseas.
Investors were also awaiting the Labor Department's weekly report on the number of newly unemployed workers seeking jobless benefits. Analysts estimate initial claims for unemployment insurance to have risen last week after dropping for five straight weeks. Initial claims are considered a good gauge of the pace of layoffs and an indication of companies' willingness to hire.
High unemployment has been seen as one of the economy's biggest obstacles to sustained growth. Last week, the Labor Department said employers cut just 11,000 jobs in November, far less than expected and the fewest monthly job losses since the recession began in late 2007, The Associated Press reports.
Meanwhile, shortly after the opening bell, the Dow Jones Industrial Average traded up 96 points, or 0.9%, to 10432. Of the index's 30 components, 29 traded in the green, led by United Technologies, Walt Disneyand Alcoa.
Setting off the day's trading, the U.S. Labor Department said the number of U.S. workers filing new claims for jobless benefits rose more than economists expected last week, with initial claims up by 17,000 to 474,000 in the week ended Dec. 5.
On the other hand, total claims lasting more than one week fell, with the four-week moving average down by 7,750 to 473,750 from the previous week's revised average of 481,500. That is the lowest figure since Sept. 27, 2008. Also in the Labor Department's report: the number of continuing claims—those drawn by workers for more than one week in the week ended Nov. 28—fell by 303,000 to 5,157,000 from the preceding week's revised level of 5,460,000.
"While initial claims was disappointing, the bottom line is the numbers still indicate we are in the early stages of a recovery and the data will fluctuate," said Robert Pavlik, chief market strategist for Banyan Partners, The Wall Street Journal reports.
It was also reported, the Nasdaq Composite gained 0.8% to 2200, while the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index rose 0.6% to 1102.83. Aside from the consumer-discretionary sector, the defensive utilities and telecommunications sectors were the index's leading gainers, continuing a trend that has lasted for much of the past month.
On Wall Street, traders say the push into defensive sectors reflects people trying to slow down their trading and settle positions for the year-end. Still, the S&P 500 is unlikely to add to its nearly 60% run since March led by such sectors.
"The only positive is that sooner or later these trades are going to have to be unwound," Mr. Pavlik said, The Wall Street Journal reports.