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Stock Futures Hold Gains After Jobs Data, ECB

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NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Stock futures were rising Thursday after the Dow Jones Industrial Average broke its record-high closing for a second-straight day Wednesday, jobless claims numbers came in better than expected, and as the European Central Bank president maintained a dovish tone.

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were rising 36 points, or 18.76 points above fair value, at 14,301. Futures for the S&P 500 were up 4.5 points, or 2.99 points above fair value, at 1543.5. Futures for the Nasdaq were up 8.5 points, or 4.39 points above fair value, at 2796.75.

The European Central Bank stood pat on its benchmark interest rate of 0.75%, as expected, even as inflation fell and economic growth prospects soured amid fresh eurozone worries.

Still, during a press conference following the meeting, ECB President Mario Draghi maintained a dovish tone, indicating expectations of a continued accommodative policy stance.

The Bank of England left its asset purchase facility and key rate unchanged at a record low of 0.5%, also as expected.

A raft of U.S. economic data was released Thursday, ahead of Friday's widely-watched nonfarm payrolls report for February.

The Labor Department said that initial jobless claims in the week ended March 2 were 340,000, a decrease of 7,000 from the previous week's upwardly revised figure of 347,000. The four-week moving average was 348,750, a decrease of 7,000 from the prior week's 355,750. Economists were expecting claims to rise to 355,000.

Continuing claims in the week ended Feb. 23 came in at 3.094 million, an increase of 3,000 from the preceding week's upwardly revised level of 3.091 million. Economists were expecting continuing claims of 3.11 million.

The latest Challenger Gray & Christmas report said that planned job cuts increased for the second consecutive month in February as U.S.-based employers announced work force reductions totaling 55,356, up 37% from 40,430 in January.

The Census Bureau reported that the U.S. trade deficit widened to $44.4 billion in January from a downwardly revised $38.1 billion. Expectations were for a widening to $43 billion.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics said that nonfarm labor productivity fell 1.9% in the fourth quarter, versus the prior estimate of a decline of 2%. Predictions were for a 1.6% fall.

Unit labor costs rose 4.6% in the quarter, compared with the prior estimate of a 4.5% increase and expectations of a 4.2% rise.

The Federal Reserve is predicted to say that consumer credit rose by $12.8 billion in January after increasing by $14.6 billion in December. The Fed report is due at 3 p.m.

Gold for April delivery was rising $5.40 to $1,580.30 an ounce at the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange, while April crude oil futures were up 25 cents to $90.68 a barrel.