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Weekly jobless claims, same store sales have futures higher

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Stocks are posting gains this morning as the roller coaster ride for equities and weekly jobless data continues.

This morning's economic data showed weekly jobless claims falling by 19,000 in the latest week to 389,000, which was slightly below the 392,000 forecast of economists. While the weekly data doesn't represent a "surprise" from forecast, the report calms some uncertainty toward tomorrow's release of nonfarm payrolls and unemployment rate reports. In essence, the recent weekly data will have economy watchers still perceiving a flat labor market with small payroll gains, that hint of a still weak, but stabilizing jobs environment.

Upon release of the weekly jobless data, stock futures did see a bit of a "pop" to their early morning highs as S&P futures (sp03h) rose to 915.30, but have since settled back to 913.80, which has S&P futures gaining 4 points at 914. NASDAQ futures (nd03h) are higher by 11 points at 1,056, while Dow futures (dj03h) are gaining just 11 points at 1,056.

Retailers are reporting their recent same store sales with an overriding tone that the holiday season was rather disappointing.

Target (NYSE:TGT) $30.12 said December sales were below plan at each of its divisions and for Q4, the company expects the impact of sales shortfalls on earnings to be at least partially offset by continued strength in gross margin rate performance and substantial growth contribution from its credit card operations.

Shares of Kohls (NYSE:KSS) $52.90 are trading higher by $1.60 at $54.50 after the retailer said total sales in December were up 19.4% to $1.629 billion compared to year-ago period (5-weeks ending January 4th). However, the shortened holiday shopping season has the company saying that fourth-quarter earnings are expected to be at the lower end of the company's previous guidance and current First Call estimates of $0.79-$0.84 per share.

In the technology arena, software stocks are getting a boost after Germany-based software maker SAP Aktiengesell (NYSE:SAP) $22.49 said it would hit its 2002 profit goal as fourth-quarter license sales held up better than the market had forecast. Shares of SAP are rising $1.34, or 5.9% from yesterday's close on the New York ECNs.

Networking stocks are also seeing a rise after Foundry Networks (NASDAQ:FDRY) $8.15 jumps $1.19, or 14.6% to $9.34 in pre-market action after the company said late yesterday that it expects to top its fourth-quarter revenue forecasts, citing stronger than expected sales of its Ethernet and other router products.

All of the above and more has stocks futures looking at a higher open and above this morning's fair value. Fair value for the S&P 500 today is $0.20. That price will not change during the session. HL Camp & Company has their computers set for program buying at $0.61 and set for program selling at $-1.69. Fair value for the NASDAQ-100 today is $2.62.

Jeff Bailey

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