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Premarket: Dow edges higher ahead of key U.S. numbers Add to ...

Global stocks were set for modest gains on Thursday morning, ahead of a busy batch of U.S. economic reports, including jobless gains, retail sales and the ISM manufacturing index.

U.S. index futures were modestly higher with about two hours before markets open, suggesting that stocks will rise at the start of trading. Futures for the Dow Jones industrial average were up 38 points or 0.3 per cent. Futures for the broader S&P 500 were up 3 points or 0.3 per cent.

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Both indexes fell on Wednesday after U.S. Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke did not indicate in Congressional testimony that another round of economic stimulus was on the table, an omission that also hammered the price of gold.

On Thursday morning, though, gold had found some stability at $1,712 (U.S.) an ounce, relatively unchanged. Crude oil rose slightly, to $107.23 a barrel, up 0.2 per cent.

In Europe, the U.K.’s FTSE 100 was up 0.6 per cent and Germany’s DAX index was up 0.7 per cent in afternoon trading. In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei 225 fell 0.2 per cent in overnight trading.

Canadian investors will no doubt be combing through the latest batch of fiscal first-quarter bank earnings, which fell. Royal Bank of Canada’s earnings declined to $1.86-billion (Canadian) or $1.21 a share, down from $1.27 last year. Toronto-Dominion Bank’s earnings shrank to $1.48-billion from $1.56-billion last year, but the bank boosted its dividend by four cents a share. Bank of Montreal kicked off the Big Banks’ earnings earlier this week with upbeat results.

Meanwhile, there will be a lot of U.S. economic news to digest as well. The Labor Department will release weekly initial jobless claims before markets open, with economists expecting little change from last week, at 350,000 claims.

The ISM Manufacturing index for February will be released at 10 a.m. (ET), with economists expecting it to nudge higher to a reading of 54.5 from 54.1.

As well, U.S. retailers will be releasing data on sales at stores open for at least one year and car manufacturers will reveal February sales.

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