Stock futures higher after mixed economic reports

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NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stock futures are higher after the government issued mixed reports on the economy.

The U.S. economy grew more slowly in the summer than previously thought because consumers spent less than the government had first estimated. But there was good news on the jobs front: The number of people applying for unemployment benefits dropped last week to its lowest level since April 2008.

Less than two hours before the start of trading, futures for the Dow Jones industrial average are up 29 points to 12,053, while futures for the broader S&P 500 index are up 4 points at 1,240. Both readings were higher prior to the government reports.

The Commerce Department says the economy grew at an annual rate of 1.8 percent in the July-September quarter. That was the fastest growth this year, up from 1.3 percent in the April-June quarter. But it was down slightly from last month’s estimate that the economy was expanding at a 2 percent rate in the summer.

Economists think economic growth has picked up. They estimate the economy is growing at an annual rate of more than 3 percent for the last three months of the year. That would be the fastest pace since a 3.8 percent performance in the spring of 2010.

Among the positive factors is the brightening job market. New applications for unemployment benefits fell last week by 4,000 to a seasonally adjusted 364,000, the Labor Department says. It was the third straight weekly decrease.

Futures for the Nasdaq composite rose 7 points to 2,246, a day after the index fell 1 percent because of a disappointing earnings report from technology bellwether Oracle.

Stocks in Europe rose in light, pre-holiday trading. Germany’s Dax, London’s FTSE-100 and France’s CAC 40 each rose more than 1 percent.