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North American stock markets are set to open smartly higher in their last session before the U.S. Thanksgiving break, as a big dip in U.S. unemployment claims spurs market confidence.

In premarket trading, Dow Jones industrial average futures are up 41 points, S&P 500 futures are up 6.20 points and Nasdaq composite futures are up 10.75 points.

U.S. weekly new-jobless-claims figures came in at 466,000, down from a revised 501,000 last week. The drop was much bigger than economists had anticipated, and marks the first time in more than a year that claims have dropped below 500,000.

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Meanwhile, a resumption in gold's rally and stronger energy commodity prices should lend support to Canadian stocks at the opening. Gold is up $15.60 (U.S.) at $1,183.00 an ounce in New York, bulling its way into record territory after two days of stubborn resistance. Natural gas has surged 8 per cent, while oil has edged up 6 cents at $76.08 a barrel.

The Canadian dollar has jumped a full cent to 95.52 cents (U.S.).

Overseas markets are modestly higher. London's FTSE 100 is up 0.6 per cent, while Germany's DAX is up 0.4 per cent. In Asia, Japan's Nikkei closed up 0.4 per cent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng index gained 0.8 per cent.

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About the Author
Economics Reporter

David Parkinson has been covering business and financial markets since 1990, and has been with The Globe and Mail since 2000. A Calgary native, he received a Southam Fellowship from the University of Toronto in 1999-2000, studying international political economics. More

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