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U.S. stocks were headed for slight gains at Thursday's open, despite a warning from Moody's of a possible downgrade to U.S. debt that is sure to weigh on markets.
A strong earnings report from JPMorgan Chase (JPM, Fortune 500), the first of the big banks to report, and better-than-expected economic data were lending some support.
U.S. stocks snapped a three-session losing streak Wednesday, after Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke reiterated that the central bank remains ready to provide additional stimulus.
After the bell Wednesday, Moody's Investors Services said it would put the sterling bond rating of the United States on review for possible downgrade.
Moody's initiated the review, because of the "rising possibility" that Congress will fail to raise the debt ceiling in time -- something that could lead to a U.S. default on its debt.
Economy: The Labor Department said jobless claims fell 22,000 to 405,000. Economists were expecting weekly claims to decrease to 410,000 claims. It was the 14th straight week filings came in above the key level of 400,000.
The June producer price index, a reading of wholesale inflation, fell 0.4% in June, after rising 0.2% the prior month. Economists were expecting the measure to have fallen 0.2%.
The Commerce Department said June retail sales rose 0.1%. Sales were expected to have fallen 0.2% last month.
Bernanke's testimony to Congress will continue Thursday, with the Fed chairman appearing before the Senate's Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs.
Companies: Conoco Phillips (COP, Fortune 500) said that it is splitting its operations into two distinct publicly traded corporations, sending its stock up 7%.
In a tax-free spin to shareholders, ConocoPhillips will separate its oil refining and marketing business from its exploration and production operations.
JPMorgan Chase (JPM, Fortune 500) reported quarterly income of $5.4 billion, or $1.27 a share, on revenue of $27.4 billion. Both figures topped estimates. But the bank also said that it sees additional costs for resolving mortgage issues. Shares of JPMorgan edged up 1%.
Shares of Yum! Brands (YUM, Fortune 500) were almost 3% higher in premarket trading after the fast food operator posted better-than-expected earnings after the market close on Wednesday.
A day after a poor preliminary results report for the second quarter, shares of Hartford Financial Services Group (HIG, Fortune 500) fell almost 4% before the market open.
After the bell, Google (GOOG, Fortune 500) will report its quarterly results. Analysts expect that Google earned $7.86 a share.
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