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U.S. stocks were headed for a slightly lower open Thursday, following separate reports showing the U.S. trade gap narrowed in July and jobless claims rose more than expected in the latest week.
Investors remain on edge ahead of President Obama's highly anticipated jobs speech Thursday evening.
Europe is a continued point of concern for investors who are also focusing on the U.S. economy and jobs. Just last week, the government released a dismal jobs report that showed zero growth, bolstering concern for the overall economy.
Stocks are coming off of sharp gains Wednesday, following a three-day rout.
Economy: Filings for first-time unemployment benefits rose 2,000 to 414,000 in the week ending Sept. 2, the Labor Department reported Thursday. That was up from the 409,000 claims filed the week before, and worse than the 400,000 claims economists surveyed by Briefing.com had expected.
The U.S. trade gap narrowed to $44.8 billion in July, led by a surge in exports. Trade balance figures were expected to show the deficit widened to $51.5 billion in July from $53.1 billion in June.
Once the stock market opens, investors will be monitoring a speech from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke at 17:30 GMT. Fed watchers are looking for any hints that the central bank is considering further stimulus measures, beyond its latest pledge to keep interest rates low until mid 2013.
After the market closes, President Obama will wrap up the busy day with a speech on job creation at 23:00 GMT. He is expected to propose roughly $300 billion in stimulus measures to get job creation back on track.
On the European front, the Bank of England voted to leave interest rates. unchanged at 0.5%.
The European Central Bank also opted to keep its key interest rate unchanged at 1.5%.The ECB last raised its rates in July to combat rising inflation, but economists had expected the central bank to put its rate hikes on hold, due to weak economic growth in the region.
Investors will be monitoring ECB president Jean-Claude Trichet's latest assessment on Europe's economy.
Companies: AOL (AOL) will be in the spotlight as the AOL-TechCrunch fiasco continues. Inside sources say TechCrunch's founder Michael Arrington will be fired, after news broke of his new venture -- CrunchFund.
Oil for October delivery slipped 5 cents to $89.29 a barrel.
Gold futures for December delivery rose $15.90 to $1,833.50 an ounce.
Bonds: The price on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury fell, pushing the yield up to 2.04% from 2.02% late Wednesday.
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