--Stock futures rise as jobless claims, trade deficit data fall below expectations
--Jobless claims down to 355,000; trade deficit narrows
--European markets gain on back of well-received Spanish bond auction
By Matt Jarzemsky and Tomi Kilgore
NEW YORK--U.S. stocks edged higher, a day after the Dow industrials' steepest tumble in a year, as firm labor-market and export data offset lingering worries about U.S. politicians' ability to strike a budget deal.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained nine points, or 0.1%, to 12942 in the minutes after the opening bell.
The Dow slumped 313 points, or 2.4%, on Wednesday, the biggest drop since Nov. 9 of last year, as investors turned their attention to the looming "fiscal cliff" and its mix of automatic tax increases and spending cuts at the start of next year if a budget deal isn't reached.
The Standard & Poor's 500-stock index rose one point, or 0.1%, to 1396. The Nasdaq Composite Index gained six points, or 0.2%, to 2943.
Applications for jobless benefits, a measure of layoffs, fell last week, the Labor Department reported, bucking economists' projections for an increase. The labor market has shown gradual improvement in recent months. But superstorm Sandy, which displaced thousands in the Northeast, skewed the latest figures.
The U.S. trade deficit unexpectedly narrowed in September, to the lowest level since the end of 2010. Exports rebounded to record levels, helped by higher shipments of food and beverages and industrial supplies.
European markets moved higher, with the Stoxx Europe 600 rising 0.2%, as a well-received Spanish debt auction gave investors reason for optimism.
Spain sold 4.76 billion euros ($6.08 billion) in debt, slightly above the high end of the expected range, to complete its funding needs for the year. Spain's IBEX 35 stock index tacked on 0.4%.
The European Central Bank and the Bank of England both left key interest rates unchanged, as widely expected.
Meanwhile, enthusiasm over Greece's passage of new austerity measures that were required for the country to receive the next tranche of bailout funds was tempered as some street demonstrations led to violence.
Write to Matt Jarzemsky at firstname.lastname@example.org