Futures higher ahead of holiday break

NEW YORK (AP) — Stock futures rose Wednesday as the U.S. reported a sharp drop in applications for weekly unemployment benefits.

Markets have been driven higher all month by strong corporate earnings, which helped push the Nasdaq to close above 4,000 for the first time in 13 years on Tuesday. That was a week after the Standard & Poor's 500 index closed above 1,800 for the first time, and the Dow Jones industrial average finished above 16,000.

Dow Jones industrial futures are up 11 points to 16,071. S&P futures have gained 1.3 points to 1,803.30. Nasdaq futures are up 4.5 points to 3,451.75. There are no major earnings reports due Wednesday before the market closes for the holiday, but a surprisingly strong jobs report helped to keep momentum going.

The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits dropped 10,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 316,000, according to the Labor Department. The less volatile four-week average fell 7,500 to 331,750. Both the weekly jobless claims and the average have returned to levels not seen since before the recession.

Also on Wednesday, the Commerce Department reported that orders for long-lasting manufactured goods dipped last month as businesses spent less on everything from machinery to computers. Hewlett-Packard, the world's second-largest maker of PCs, saw revenue decline 3 percent in its most recent quarter.

That decline was not as steep as most had expected and company shares rose more than 6 percent before the opening bell.

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