Stock Futures Climb on German, U.S. Data

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NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Stock futures were pointing to a higher open Thursday as investors cheered data showing surprising strength in German business confidence and a better than expected read on U.S. jobless claims.

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were gaining 19 points, or 20.3 points above fair value, at 12,935. Futures for the S&P 500 were up 1.8 points, or 2.1 points above fair value, at 1358. Futures for the Nasdaq were up 7.3 points, or 6.6 points above fair value, at 2586.

U.S. stocks slipped Wednesday following weak manufacturing reports from Europe and China, and uncertainty over whether Greece can implement its debt deal.

Overnight, the European Commission said it now estimates that the eurozone will experience a "mild recession" in 2012, with its economy shrinking by 0.3% this year.

However, markets were getting a boost from data pointing to the surprising resilience of business confidence in Germany, Europe's largest economy, despite economic fears in surrounding eurozone nations. The Munich-based Ifo institute said its business-climate index, based on a survey 7,000 executives, grew to 109.6 in February from 108.3 in January -- the fourth-straight increase and the strongest in seven months. The data topped expectations of a reading of 108.8 according to a survey of economists by Thomson Reuters.

In Greece, lawmakers were reportedly getting ready to sign off on a debt swap with private creditors Thursday as a key part of the European Union and International Monetary Fund-backed €130 billion bailout, even as protests erupted over the steep budget cuts required by the deal. The swap, which requires private bondholders to replace their existing Greek debt holdings with ones of lower value, would reduce Greece's debt by €100 billion ($132 billion) and help slash the country's debt to 121% of its gross domestic product by 2020 from the 160% of GDP currently.

The Labor Department reported that the number of Americans filing unemployment claims for the first time in the week ended Feb. 18 was unchanged from the previous week's revised figure of 351,000. Economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters expected a rise to 354,000 from an originally reported four-year low of 348,000.

The Labor Department also said that the four-week moving average fell 7,000 to 359,000 from the previous week's revised average of 366,000.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency will follow up at 10 a.m. with a reading on home prices for December. Prices rose 1% in November, but remained 18.8% below the index's April 2007 peak.

Germany's DAX was off 0.39% while London's FTSE was rising 0.22% Thursday. Japan's Nikkei Average settled up 0.44% and Hong Kong's Hang Seng finished down 0.78%.