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U.S. stocks were on track to end 2014 in style, with futures pointing to a higher open Wednesday and solid gains for the major benchmarks for the full year.

Stock futures stayed in positive territory after a worse-than-expected figure for weekly jobless claims.

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJH5) picked up 15 points, or 0.1%, to 17,956, while those for the S&P 500 (SPH5) added 2.60 points, or 0.1%, to 2,079.30. Futures for the Nasdaq 100 index (NDH5) climbed 4.25 points, or 0.1%, to 4,287.

December has been a volatile month for stock markets globally, but U.S. indexes have recovered, with the S&P 500 index and the Dow industrials now on track for monthly advances.

For the full year, the S&P is on track for an advance of about 13%, the Dow is eyeing an 8.5% rise and the Nasdaq a 14% jump. While the advances are greater than for benchmarks in Japan and most of Europe, those yearly performances would still be shy of 2013’s stellar gains, when the Nasdaq surged 38% and the S&P jumped 30%.

U.S. stocks closed lower on Tuesday. On Wednesday, both the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq will observe regular trading hours, closing at 4 p.m. Eastern. Regular trade will resume on Friday, Jan. 2.

See: When do markets close on New Year’s Eve?

Wednesday’s economic news: The number of people who applied for U.S. unemployment benefits jumped by 17,000 to 298,000 last week, the highest level since Thanksgiving and more than the 290,000 expected by economists polled by MarketWatch. But initial claims are often quite volatile in the period stretching from Thanksgiving until the end of January because of the holidays, poor weather and big changes in seasonal hiring.

At 9:45 a.m. Eastern, the Chicago PMI is expected to deliver another strong reading for the final month of the year. Pending home-sales figures at 10 a.m. Eastern are likely to show a slight rise in November.

Movers and shakers: Shares of NephroGenex Inc.(NRX) surged 215% ahead of the open after the biotech firm late Tuesday announced positive safety study results for its diabetic nephropathy treatment Pyridorin.

NeuroDerm Ltd. (NDRM) lost 4% ahead of the bell on Wednesday following a 194% jump on Tuesday on the back of positive results for a treatment for Parkinson’s disease.

Tesla Motors Inc. (TSLA) rose 0.3% in premarket action.

Meadowbrook Insurance Group Inc. (MIG) also gained after news that China’s Fosun International Ltd. will buy the U.S. insurer for $433 million.

(Read more about the day’s movers here:

Other markets: Trading was upbeat, but thin in Europe, with German and Italian stock markets already closed for New Year’s Eve. The U.K.’s FTSE 100 and France’s CAC 40 index are closing early.

In Asia, most markets ended higher, although Australia and New Zealand finished in the red. The stock markets in Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines are closed.

The dollar (DXY) was little changed, keeping its 12% advance for 2014 and on track for its best year since 2005, according to FactSet data. Oil prices slumped, while gold prices dropped.