Economic news, earnings on tap

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Today is the busiest session of the week, with potentially market-moving economic and corporate news.

The first set of numbers are come from retailers like Gap and Costco, which will announce same-store sales for February throughout the morning.

The European Central Bank will make its monetary-policy announcement at 7:45 a.m. ET, which has the potential to impact trading early in the session.

Weekly jobless claims follow at 8:30 a.m. ET. Economists predict that 338,000 Americans sought unemployment benefits for the first time, down from 348,000 the previous week.

Factory orders come out at 10 a.m. but are unlikely to have a big effect on sentiment because they cover the now distant month of January. Forecasters anticipate a drop of 0.5 percent, compared with December's 1.5 percent contraction.

Weekly changes in natural-gas inventories at 10:30 a.m. could potentially impact trading in energy stocks.

There are also several potentially important earnings reports: Costco, Joy Global, Kroger, Staples, Ciena and Vimpelcom announce before the opening bell. H&R Block, Finisar and Qihoo 360 Technology follow in the afternoon.
Tomorrow is quieter, but its one event is perhaps the most important: monthly non-farm payrolls.



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