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Economic data has traders looking at a flat open

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This morning's economic data grabs some of the headlines from Iraq, and while there were few blockbusters surprises, initial claims for unemployment and February trade balance data were slightly better than economists forecast.

Stock futures rose modestly after the Labor Department said that first time claims for benefits fell by 38,000 to 405,000 in the latest week, which was better than the 425,000 forecasted by economists. This had the four-week moving average, which tends to smooth out the week-to-week volatility falling by 3,750 to 419,500. While still above the 400,000 level, it was the lowest four-week average for initial claims in a month.

In a separate report, the February trade balance showed a $-40.3 billion deficit (exports - imports), which was slightly better than the $-42 billion forecast.

On the "inflation front", March export prices that exclude agricultural grains rose 0.3% and was down from 0.5% in February, while March import prices (excluding oil) rose 0.9%, almost double the 0.4% rise in February.

Stock futures have been edging higher after this morning's economic data with S&P futures (sp03m) gaining 2.3 points to 869.10. NASDAQ futures (nd03m) are higher by 1.5 points at 1,027.50, while Dow futures (dj03m) are marked up 16 points at 8,196.

Fair value for the S&P 500 today is $-0.80. That price will not change during the session. HL Camp & Company has their computers set for program buying at $0.68 and set for program selling at $-2.04. Fair value for the NASDAQ-100 today is $2.85.

Treasuries are seeing fractional selling across the major maturities, with YIELDS edging up ever so slightly. The benchmark 10-year YIELD ($TNX.X) is at 3.911% after finishing yesterday's trade at 3.901%.

Pre-market trade as shares of Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO) $22.87 jumping to $23.73 after the company's first-quarter results surpassed analysts' forecasts late yesterday, as sales rose 47 percent on the back of solid growth in advertising and premium services.

USA Interactive (NASDAQ:USAI) $25.10 is this morning's third-most actively traded stock behind YHOO after the company announced it would acquire the remaining shares of Hotels.com (NASDAQ:ROOM) $53.42 for $6.6 billion in cash and stock. The news finds USAI slipping 3 cents to $25.07, while shares of ROOM jump to $59.80 on the news.

Jeff Bailey

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