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Stock Futures Edge Higher Amid Mixed Economic Data

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02/07/2013 | 03:13pm CEST

--Stock futures recover to tilt higher ahead of Thursday open

--Jobless claims come in higher than expected, while productivity falls by more than expected

--DJIA adds five; S&P gains one

By Tomi Kilgore and Alexandra Scaggs

NEW YORK--Stock futures edged slightly higher ahead of the open as investors digested mixed reports on the U.S. economy.

Less than 60 minutes ahead of Thursday's open, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures tacked on five points, less than 0.1%, to 13933. Standard & Poor's 500-stock index futures added one point, or 0.1%, to 1508 and Nasdaq 100 futures gained seven points, or 0.3%, to 2744.

Changes in stock futures don't always accurately predict stock moves after the opening bell.

There were 366,000 initial claims for jobless benefits in the latest week, more than the 360,000 expected.

The first read of fourth-quarter productivity showed a decline of 2% on the quarter, a bigger drop than the 1.6% expected. Unit labor costs rose 4.5%, more than the 3.2% gain expected.

Consumer credit for December, due at 3 p.m. EST, is expected to expand by $13 billion on the month.

Among early stock movers, US Airways Group rallied 3% after The Wall Street Journal reported the airline and American Airlines parent AMR are working out details of a merger agreement. The combination would get American out of bankruptcy, and create the world's largest airline.

European markets were mixed, with the Stoxx Europe 600 little changed, after the European Central Bank left key interest rates unchanged, as widely expected. A Spanish government bond auction witnessed strong demand. The Bank of England also left its policy unchanged.

Spain's IBEX 35 index rose 0.6% after Spain sold EUR4.61 billion ($6.23 billion) worth of government bonds, above the upper end of the targeted range of EUR4.5 billion. France also saw strong demand as it auctioned off EUR7.98 billion of government bonds. France's CAC 40 index tacked on 0.1%.

In Asia, Japan's Nikkei Stock Average fell 0.9%, pulling back from Wednesday's 3.8% surge, with a sharp drop in Nikon 7731.TO -18.95% shares following disappointing quarterly results weighing on sentiment. China's Shanghai Composite slipped 0.7% to snap an eight-session win streak.

Markets in China and Taiwan will be closed all of next week for Lunar New Year, while Hong Kong will be closed through Wednesday.

Front-month March crude-oil futures gained 0.3% to $96.92 a barrel, while February gold futures eased 0.2% to $1,674.80 an ounce. The dollar declined against the euro but gained ground against the yen. Yields on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury bond fell to 1.964% as prices rose.

In other corporate news, Sprint Nextel shed 0.5% after the wireless carrier reported a narrower-than-expected fourth-quarter loss, but higher-than-forecast net customer losses.

Green Mountain Coffee Roasters slid 7.7% after the company's fiscal first-quarter earnings topped estimates while revenue was essentially in line, but its second-quarter sales growth outlook was below current projections.

Akamai Technologies slumped 17% after the Internet technology company's fourth-quarter revenue missed expectations, offsetting a slight beat in earnings and a $150 million extension of its stock repurchase program.

DeVry leapt 17% after the for-profit education company reported fiscal second-quarter earnings that were well above forecasts and revenue that declined less than expected.

Limited Brands declined 1.1% after the apparel retailer reported January same-store sales that rose above expectations, but kept its fiscal fourth-quarter earnings estimate unchanged.

Oxigene shot up 28% after the biopharmaceutical company said a Phase 2 study showed that its ovarian cancer treatment continued to be well tolerated, with no additional safety concerns.

Visa reported fiscal first-quarter earnings and revenue that beat estimates and authorized a new $1.75 billion stock buyback program. Still, the credit card company's stock lost 1.5% premarket.

Write to Tomi Kilgore at [email protected] and Alexandra Scaggs at [email protected]

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