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Premarket: Markets appear poised for gains Add to ...

North American stocks appeared poised for gains ahead of the opening bell on Thursday, as investors waited for the latest employment data.

U.S. index futures were up 90 minutes before markets open, suggesting that stocks will advance at the start of trading. Futures for the Dow Jones industrial average were up 0.2 per cent. Futures for the broader S&P 500 were up a similar percentage.

In Europe, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 rose 0.6 per cent in afternoon trading and Germany's DAX index rose 1.1 per cent. In Japan, the Nikkei 225 rose 0.3 per cent. China's Hang Seng slipped 0.3 per cent.

North American markets will likely take their opening cue from the latest U.S. unemployment numbers, being released at 8:30 this morning. Economists expect that between 365,000 and 385,000 people filed for employment insurance for the first time last week.

The weekly report has shown a slight uptick over the last few weeks, with the four-week average figure hitting 381,750 last week. Until then, the number of people joining the ranks of the unemployed over the last year had been on a steady decline. Monthly employment data is due on Friday.

In addition to the weekly employment claims data this morning, investors will be waiting for first quarter produtivity figures at 8:30 a.m. EST, which are expected to have dipped by 0.8 per cent.

At 10 a.m., the Institute for Supply Management’s index of non-manufacturing industries will be released. It is expected to have decreased to 55 in April, down from 56 in March.

In Toronto, the S&P/TSX could react to a number of high profile quarterly financial reports today coming from Canadian Natural Resources Ltd., Manulife Financial Corp., SXC health Solutions Corp., BCE Inc. and Jean Coutu Group, all before the opening bell.

In the U.S., earnings season is starting to wind down, with Kraft Foods Inc. the only member of the Dow Jones Industrial Average reporting today. General Motors reported early in the day that first-quarter profit beat analyst expecations.

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