US stock futures rise as fear wanes over Greece

NEW YORK (AP) ? U.S. stock futures rose Thursday after the government issued a positive report on the number of people filing for unemployment benefits, while fears eased in Europe over the deal to stave off a Greek financial collapse.

The Labor Department said new unemployment benefit applications held steady last week at their lowest point since March 2008, a sign that the job market is improving. Applications have been falling since October.

Dow Jones industrial average futures gained 22 points to 12,938, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 added 1.8 points to 1,357.70. The Nasdaq composite index futures gained 6.5 points to 2,585.25.

Meanwhile, in Europe, Greece moved ahead with reforms demanded in return for its second bailout in as many years, and a measure of business confidence in Germany rose more than expected. World markets were mixed, however, as oil prices hit nine-month highs and tensions rose in the Persian Gulf over Iran’s nuclear program.

Oil prices topped $106 a barrel, in part reflecting a better-than-expected measure of business confidence in Germany, along with worries about Iran. High oil prices could put further pressure on growth in both the U.S. and Europe.

In London, Britain’s FTSE 100 slipped 0.2 percent to 5916.55. Germany’s DAX was off 0.37 percent to 6819.29 and France’s CAC-40 edged up 0.15 percent to 3,452.59.

Earlier in Asia, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng dropped 0.8 percent to 21,380.99 and South Korea’s Kospi lost 1 percent to 2,007.08.

But Japan’s 225 Nikkei added 0.4 percent to close at 9,595.57, its highest finish since August, as the dollar traded near a seven-month high against the yen. That’s a positive sign for Japan’s exporters, which have struggled amid a prolonged period of strength in the yen.

U.S. stocks to watch in Thursday trading include computer marker Hewlett-Packard Co., which offered a disappointing profit outlook, and Target Corp. which reported mixed fourth-quarter results. Meanwhile, Apple Inc. holds its annual shareholder meeting in California.