Stock futures move higher on buoyant mood in US

NEW YORK (AP) — Stock futures rose Thursday with a pair of government reports showing that the economy grew in the first three months of the year and that the employment outlook remains stable.

Dow Jones industrial futures rose 46 points to 15,336. The broader S&P futures gained 6.2 points to 1,653.20. Nasdaq futures rose 7 points to 3,002.50.

Investors, initially spooked early Thursday by another plunge on Japan’s Nikkei stock index, refocused their attention closer to home, with the Commerce Department reporting that the U.S. economy grew at an annual rate of 2.4 percent.

That was bit slower growth than was expected, but much faster than the 0.4 percent growth in the final three months of last year.

Growth in the first quarter of the year was dragged down by deep government spending cuts, though consumers are still very active.

The number of people applying for unemployment aid rose to a seasonally adjusted 354,000, the Labor Department said Thursday, with layoffs ticking up in some areas.

Hiring has remained solid, however, and unemployment is at a four-year low.

Over the past six months, employers have added an average of 208,000 jobs per month.

Asian markets were rattled this morning by Japan’s Nikkei index, which tumbled another 5.2 percent.

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