Stock Futures Tick Higher After Prior Session's Selloff

Andrea Tse

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Stock futures were ticking higher Thursday after the U.S. major equity averages were slammed by fiscal cliff fears Wednesday and as the Greek parliament approved a package of steep spending cuts and tax hikes.

Investors were also awaiting data on the U.S. labor market and international trade numbers, and a decision from the latest European Central Bank policy meeting.

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were rising 25 points, or 6.27 points above fair value, at 12,888. Futures for the S&P 500 were rising 1.8 points, or 0.12 points above fair value, at 1390. Futures for the Nasdaq were up 4.25 points, or 5.36 points above fair value, at 2614.

The Greek parliament early Thursday passed a new, tough austerity package that had triggered mass protests on the streets of Athens.

"Greece's parliament has voted through structural reform measures. Now there are just nine voted to go before the cash is forthcoming -- the Greek budget (Sunday), Ecofin (Monday) and seven parliamentary votes across the Euro areas (next couple of weeks)," commented Paul Donovan, a global economist at UBS.

The Dow closed below 13,000 for the first time since Aug. 2 Wednesday as worries about the fiscal cliff rattled investors in the wake of President Barack Obama's re-election on Tuesday.

The Labor Department is forecast by economists to report that initial jobless claims for the week ended Nov. 3 rose to 370,000 from 363,000 the prior week, and that continuing claims in the week ended Oct. 27 fell to 3.253 million from 3.263 million The report is due at 8:30 a.m. EST.

The Census Bureau is forecast to say that the U.S. trade deficit widened to $45 billion in September, up from $44.2 billion previously. The trade report also is due at 8:30 a.m.

Investors were also following the European Central Bank policy meeting and watching for any mention on unconventional policy plans and clues on when the central bank plans to begin buying Spanish bonds.

"In spite of the weaker data flow of late we do not see the ECB changing policy today. The signals have been that the ECB regards interest rates as having done all that they can, and (as with other central banks) the focus has shifted to liquidity management," said Donovan.

As expected, the Bank of England held off on additional quantitative easing for now amid some recent upbeat economic data, though more stimulus looked to be a possibility in the near future amid doubts of a sustained economic recovery.

The U.K. Monetary Policy Committee decided to keep the key interest rate at a record low of 0.5% and the size of the bond-buying program at 375 billion pounds.

Investors were also keeping an eye on China's big leadership change, which economists at Capital Economics noted could be a more significant event for emerging economies than the re-election of Obama.

"The installation of a cohesive Chinese leadership committed to putting the economy on a more sustainable footing would create opportunities for consumer goods producers while also signaling an end to the global commodity boom," said Mark Williams, an economist at Capital Economics.

Overseas markets were trading mixed. The FTSE 100 in London was rising 0.25%, while the DAX in Germany was tacking on 0.50%. Japan's Nikkei average settled down 1.51% on Thursday and Hong Kong's Hang Seng closed behind by 2.41%.

Gold for December delivery was adding 90 cents to $1,714.90 an ounce at the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange, while December crude oil contracts were rising 88 cents at $85.32 a barrel.

The benchmark 10-year Treasury was down 3/32, raising the yield to 1.658%. The dollar was up 0.12%, according to the U.S. dollar index.

In corporate news, Walt Disney(:DIS) is slated to report its fiscal fourth-quarter results after Thursday's closing bell and analysts are calling for earnings of 68 cents a share in the September-ended period on revenue of $10.92 billion.

Dean Foods(:DF) beat third-quarter earnings estimates and hiked its full-year earnings guidance to between $1.27 and $1.32 a share, driven by continued strong momentum across the business, offset by the impact of rising commodity costs, particularly at Fresh Dairy Direct.

Department store operator Kohl's(:KSS) posted better-than-expected third-quarter results as same-store sales increased 1.1%.

The company now expects full-year earnings of $4.52 to $4.60 a share for fiscal 2012 versus its previous guidance of $4.50 to $4.65 a share.

The results arrive on the heels of the company's announcement of a quarterly cash dividend of 32 cents a share on its common stock and the increase of share repurchases by $3.2 billion.

Groupon(:GRPN), the online deals company, is forecast by analysts Thursday to post a profit of 3 cents a share in the third quarter on revenue of $590.1 million.

Activision Blizzard(:ATVI) on Wednesday topped Wall Street's profit view on the strength of its latest "World of Warcraft" release, "The Mists of Pandaria" and its "Skylanders" franchise.

Qualcomm(:QCOM), the chipmaker, easily beat Wall Street's consensus profit view on Wednesday and forecast non-GAAP earnings of $1.08 to $1.16 a share on revenue ranging from $5.6 billion to $6.1 billion for its fiscal first quarter.

Whole Foods Market(:WFM) reported an in-line profit for its fiscal fourth quarter and announced Wednesday it raised its quarterly dividend by 40% to 20 cents a share.

-- Written by Andrea Tse in New York.

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