Stock market poised for higher opening

Stock market futures, after Wednesday's big sell-off, move higher with brighter unemployment report.

In this March 16, 2011 photo, traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. The stock market endured steep losses, but stock futures on March 17 pointed to a higher open.

The stock market appears poised to rebound, a day after suffering its worst losses in seven months.

Stock futures rose after the government said first-time applications for unemployment benefits dropped last week. Claims fell to 385,000, a slightly bigger fall than economists had expected.

A separate report showed consumer prices edged higher in February. The government said the Consumer Price Index rose 0.5 percent last month, a tenth of a point more than forecasts as well as the January rate. Core prices, which exclude food and fuel costs, edged up 0.2 percent, the same as the previous month.

Financial markets were gripped by fear over Japan's nuclear crisis on Wednesday, with stocks losing nearly all their gains for the year. The three major stock market indexes are down 3.6 percent for the week.

The dollar dropped to an all-time low against the Japanese yen late Wednesday, reaching 76.53 yen to the dollar. By Thursday morning, the yen had weakened and was trading at 78.77 yen to the dollar. When the yen loses strength, it takes more yen to buy one dollar.

A stronger yen would hurt Japan's exporters, potentially dealing another problem to an economy already racked by an earthquake, tsunami and evolving nuclear crisis.

Finance ministers from the Group of Seven industrialized countries are due to hold a conference call later Thursday to discuss ways to calm financial markets and possibly curb the yen's rise.

Ahead of the opening bell, Dow Jones industrial average futures are up 108, or 0.9 percent, at 11,685. S&P 500 index futures are up 17, or 1.4 percent, at 1,271. Nasdaq 100 index futures are up 26, or 1.2 percent, at 2,235.

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