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Stock Index Futures Signal Higher Wall Street Open

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U.S. stock index futures pointed to a higher open on Wall Street on Thursday, prompted by investors seen hunting for bargains after a steep sell-off in the previous session on concerns about a looming fiscal crisis.

* Futures for the S&P 500, the Dow Jones and the Nasdaq 100 were 0.2 to 0.3 percent higher, a day after U.S. stocks fell more than 2 percent.

* The Labor Department releases first-time claims for jobless benefits for the week ended November 3. Economists forecast a total of 370,000 new filings, compared with 363,000 in the prior week.

* KKR & Co L.P. (KKR.N) and Australia’s Allegro Funds have agreed to buy around A$350 million ($364 million) worth of distressed commercial loans from a unit of Lloyds Banking Group Plc (LLOY.L), a source familiar with the matter said on Thursday.

* Shares in Whole Foods Market (WFM.O) were down 4.1 percent, while Concur Technologies (CNQR.O) fell 6.1 percent after the bell on Wednesday after the companies announced their results. Companies announcing results on Thursday included Walt Disney (DIS.N) and Duke Energy (DUK.N).

* The Commerce Department releases September International Trade figures at 8.30 a.m.EDT. Economists expect a trade deficit of $45.0 billion, versus a $44.22 billion deficit in August.

* The European Central Bank is expected to leave interest rates on hold on Thursday, waiting instead to show its mettle with a new bond-purchase program that is ready for use as soon as Spain asks for help. ECB President Mario Draghi will hold a news conference at 1330 GMT.

* The Bank of England is likely to leave interest rates unchanged at 0.5 percent and to leave its quantitative easing target at 375 billion pounds.

* Greece’s government voted by a razor thin margin on Thursday to approve an austerity package needed to unlock vital aid and avert bankruptcy, despite an internal rift and violent protests at the gates of parliament.

* European shares (.FTEU3) rose 0.3 percent after reassuring earnings from major companies including Siemens (SIEGn.DE) and Swiss Re (SRENH.VX). Japan’s Nikkei average (.N225) fell 1.5 percent.

* The Dow industrials lost more than 300 points in a sell-off on Wednesday that drove all major U.S. stock indexes down over 2 percent in the wake of the presidential election as investors’ focus shifted to the looming “fiscal cliff” debate and Europe’s economic troubles.

* The Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) slid 312.95 points, or 2.36 percent, to close at 12,932.73. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index (^GSPC) fell 33.86 points, or 2.37 percent, to 1,394.53. The Nasdaq Composite Index (^IXIC) lost 74.64 points, or 2.48 percent, to close at 2,937.29.