Stocks headed for higher open

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    By CNNMoney staffMarch 3, 2011: 7:49 AM ET

    NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — U.S. stocks were headed for a higher open Thursday as oil prices fell slightly and investors awaited reports on the jobs situation.

    Dow Jones industrial average (INDU), S&P 500 (SPX) and Nasdaq (COMP) futures were higher ahead of the opening bell. Futures measure current index values against perceived future performance.

    U.S. stocks ended slightly higher Wednesday, as nervous investors focused on oil prices, which rose above $102 a barrel on renewed concerns about supply and the Libyan conflict.

    Derek Hoffman, chief executive and founder of Wall Street Cheat Sheet, said optimism about the jobless claims report, due at 8:30 a.m. ET, was fueling the premarket advance.

    “The premarkets are up because of the optimism that the jobs report is going to be good,” he said. “There’s an initial upfront expectation this morning that jobs are going to beat the [forecast] number.”

    Economy: Investors will get weekly initial jobless claims from the Labor Department before the opening bell. Analysts surveyed by Briefing.com expect the number of people filing for unemployment benefits to rise to 400,000, up from 391,000 the previous week.

    The number of Americans filing claims for a second week or more is expected to increase slightly.

    The report comes a day before the big labor report, the monthly employment figures from the government. Economists surveyed by CNNMoney expect that 192,000 jobs were created in February, with the unemployment rate rising to 9.1% from 9% in January.

    The Institute for Supply Management’s service industries index will be released after the opening bell. It’s expected to fall to 59 from the January reading of 59.4, but that would still indicate expansion in the sector.

    World markets: European stocks were higher in midday trading. Britain’s FTSE 100 rose 1.2%, the DAX in Germany ticked up 1.3% and France’s CAC 40 added 1.3%.

    Asian markets ended mixed. The Shanghai Composite slipped 0.4%, while the Hang Seng in Hong Kong edged higher 0.3% and Japan’s Nikkei gained 0.9%.

    Currencies and commodities: The dollar rose versus the British pound, and made slight gains against the Japanese yen and the euro.

    Oil for April delivery slipped 66 cents to $101.57 a barrel.

    Gold futures for April delivery fell $8.70 to $1,429 an ounce. On Wednesday gold hit an intraday all-time high of $1,441 an ounce, before settling at a fresh record of $1,437.70 an ounce.

    Bonds: The price on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury fell, pushing the yield up to 3.48% from 3.46% late Friday.  To top of page


    First Published: March 3, 2011: 6:53 AM ET

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    Stocks headed for higher open