NEW YORK (AP) — U. S. stock futures rose after economic indicators released by the government Thursday buttressed optimism about an economy that appears to be gaining momentum.

Dow Jones industrial futures rose 23 points to 14,421. The broader S&P futures, which have been nearing record highs, rose 4.1 points to 1,554.10. Nasdaq futures gained 11.5 points to 2,805.

Fewer Americans sought unemployment benefits, dropping the average number of weekly applications last month to a five-year low, according to the Labor Department. The four-week average, which is a more stable indicator, fell to 346,750, the lowest since March 2008, several months after the economy went into decline.

Economists had expected weekly jobless claims to rise.

Rising gasoline prices helped push wholesale prices higher, but the producer price index, which grew a seasonally adjusted 0.7 percent in February, has risen just 1.7 percent in the past 12 months.

That is comfortably below the Federal Reserve's 2 percent inflation target.

And the Commerce Department reported Thursday that the U. S. current account trade deficit narrowed in the final three months of 2012.

However, for the year, the deficit climbed to levels not seen in the past four years.


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