Stocks poised for higher open

U.S. stocks were poised for an upbeat start Thursday, bolstered by a lower-than-expected jobless claims report and a meeting of European leaders would result in a lifeline for Greece.

Dow Jones industrial average, S&P 500 futures and Nasdaq 100 futures were higher.

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Futures measure current index values against perceived future performance and offer an indication of how markets may open when trading begins in New York.

U.S. stocks dipped Wednesday amid concerns over the strong dollar and Fed chairman Ben Bernanke’s plan to unwind some of the liquidity measures that have helped prop up the financial system.

Speaking before the jobless claims report, Derek Hoffman, chief executive and founder of Wall St. Cheat Sheet, described the gains in futures as somewhat cautious following Wednesday’s decline.

“We’re treading this 10,000 mark on the Dow,” said Derek Hoffman. “We’re narrowly within this tight range.”

Also, Hoffman said that trading volume could be light, as some Wall Street traders encounter difficulty getting to work following the Wednesday snow storm.

Debt crisis: Concerns about the debt situations of European nations have also weighed on markets recently. But investors have been growing more optimistic that the problem will be addressed.

European leaders were meeting at a summit Thursday in Belgium, where, according to reports, a deal has been reached on an aid package for Greece that could stem problems in other euro zone nations.

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Economy: The Labor Department reported that initial jobless claims dropped to 440,000 in the week ended Feb. 6, which was lower than expected and a decline from the prior week.

Jobless claims were expected to total 465,000 in the week ended Feb. 6, according to a consensus of economists’ forecasts from Briefing.com. Claims totaled 483,000 the prior week, according to revised figures.

Earnings:

PepsiCo (PEP, Fortune 500) reported that fourth-quarter earnings of 90 cents per share, matching expectations from a consensus of analysts surveyed by Briefing.com.

PepsiCo’s stock barely budged in pre-market trading.

World markets: Stocks in Europe were mixed in midday trading, with London’s FTSE making slight gains, but with declines in Frankfurt’s XETRA-DAX and Paris’ CAC 40. Asian shares finished the session with gains.

Cash and bonds: The dollar rose against the euro but slipped against the yen and the pound. The price of the 10-year note rose, pushing down the yield to 3.71%.

Oil and gold: The price of oil rose 29 cents to $74.82 per barrel. The price of gold jumped $7.50 per ounce to $1,083.30

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