Stock futures hold gains after jobless claims

Stock futures are higher after jobless claims declined slightly more than expected and ahead of the unofficial start to corporate earnings season.

The labor report was the second of three key readings this week and follows better-than-expected data on private-sector job growth yesterday; investors are looking ahead to tomorrow's monthly employment report, which is expected to show nonfarm payrolls increased by 200K in December.

European markets rose after the ECB and Bank of England left benchmark interest rates unchanged, as expected; Asian markets fell on disappointing Chinese inflation data.

Bed Bath & Beyond and Family Dollar are under pressure after missing earnings estimates, but Macy's could begin the day at new highs after raising guidance and revealing plans to close stores and lay off employees.

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