Unemployment data delivered a modest boost to investors' economic sentiment, as the U.S. Department of Labor's weekly jobless claims figures dropped slightly. For the week ended September 4, the advance seasonally adjusted claims figure came in at 451,000, down 27,000 from the previous week.
In addition, the Federal Reserve's twice-quarterly Beige Book report found that economic growth continued through the end of the summer, although at a slower rate. The economy has generally been hampered by sclerotic housing and labor markets, and boosted by manufacturing and finance.
"Economic growth at a modest pace was the most common characterization of overall conditions," said the central bank.
Investors may also be reacting positively to President Barack Obama's plans for a combined stimulus and tax-break plan designed to rev up employment and manufacturing activity. Combining tax credits for capital expenditures and research and development with an infrastructure spending bank, the proposed package comes out to about $350 billion.
However, its prospects are doubtful in a pre-election season environment characterized by public wariness surrounding the issue of deficits and a lack of cooperation between the Democratic majority and the Republican minority.
At 9:45 a.m. EST, Dow Jones Industrial Average index futures were up 54 points to 10,380.