(By Balachander) U.S. stock-index futures pointed to a higher opening on the Wall Street following a better-than-expected trade data from China.
Mini Dow Industrial Average futures rose 34 points to 13,359. The Nasdaq futures added 16 points to 2,738. Standard and Poor's 500 futures gained 5.90 points to 1,461.70.
China's trade surplus jumped to $31.6 billion in December from $19.6 billion in November as exports rose 14.1 percent, a report showed. Economists expected trade surplus to remain unchanged and a 5.0 percent increase in exports.
Meanwhile, the European Central Bank kept the key interest rate at a record-low of 0.75 percent even as markets look for remarks from ECB President Mario Draghi for any hints regarding future monetary policy.
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On the domestic economic front, the number of Americans who continued to receive jobless benefits unexpectedly rose last week, a government data showed. Jobless claims rose 4,000 to 371,000 for the week ended Jan. 5 from a revised 367,000, while economists projected 365,000 applications.
On Wednesday, U.S. stocks closed in green after positive results and outlook from Alcoa Inc. (AA) buoyed optimism about the corporate earnings season. The largest U.S. producer of aluminum reported better-than-expected quarterly revenue. The company, which named William Oplinger its CFO, also forecast global aluminum demand growth of 7 percent from 6 percent in 2012.
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Hot Stocks Of The Day: F, NOK, TIF, ASNA, ARO, RT, VOXX
In corporate news, Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) jumped 3.19 percent in premarket after the auto giant doubled its quarterly dividend to 10 cents a share. The first-quarter dividend is payable on March 1, 2013, to shareholders of record on Jan. 30, 2013.
Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) spiked 20.00 percent in premarket after the cell phone maker said its Devices & Services segment has exceeded expectations and achieved underlying profitability in the fourth quarter.
Tiffany & Co. (NYSE: TIF) tumbled 8.68 percent in premarket after the jeweler forecast full-year profit at the lower-end of its guidance, saying holiday period sales growth was at the low-end of its expectations.
Ascena Retail Group Inc. (NASDAQ: ASNA) plunged 11.15 percent in premarket after the company slashed its earnings guidance for fiscal 2013 due to lower than planned holiday sales.
Aeropostale Inc. (NYSE: ARO) lost 10.25 percent in premarket after the retailer of casual apparel lowered its earnings forecast for the fourth quarter, saying sales and traffic trends deteriorated significantly in December.
Ruby Tuesday Inc. (NYSE: RT) retreated 9.63 percent in premarket after the operator of casual dining restaurants posted a wider quarterly loss due to lower revenue as well as higher costs and expenses. Loss was wider than Wall Street expectations.
VOXX International Corp. (NASDAQ: VOXX) surged 17.50 percent in premarket after the distributor of electronics products posted third-quarter results that topped Wall Street expectations.
European markets traded mixed, with Germany's DAX adding 0.29 percent to trade at 7,742.47. France's CAC40 edged 0.06 percent lower to trade at 3,715.51. The U.K.'s FTSE 100 rose 0.18 percent to trade at 6,109.54.
Among Asian markets, China's Shanghai Stock Exchange Composite Index advanced 0.37 percent to close at 2,283.66. Japan's Nikkei 225 rose 0.70 percent to finish at 10,652.64. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index added 0.59 percent to end at 23,354.31. India's BSE Sensex ended at 19,663.55, down 0.02 percent.
Commodity & Currency Scan
Ahead of the opening bell, crude oil futures jumped 1.10 percent to $94.11 per barrel. Gold futures rose 0.33 percent to $1,660.90 per ounce.
In the currency market, the euro added 0.41 percent against the U.S. dollar to 1.3117, and the British pound inched 0.14 percent higher to 1.6046. The dollar gained 0.44 percent against the Japanese yen to 88.2700.