Stock index futures were little changed on Thursday as investors awaited data on the labor market ahead of U.S. President Barack Obama's speech unveiling his plan to stimulate jobs growth.

Weekly U.S. jobless claims are due at 8:30 a.m. EDT (1230 GMT), which investors will look to for signs the recovery is improving. Economists in a Reuters survey forecast a total of 405,000 new filings, compared with 409,000 in the prior week.

After last Friday's dismal U.S. nonfarm payroll data, investors will closely watch Obama's televised speech to Congress at 7 p.m. EDT (2300 GMT). The president is expected to propose tax cuts for middle-class households and businesses and new spending to repair roads, bridges and other infrastructure.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke will deliver a speech on the U.S. economic outlook to the Economic Club of Minnesota at 1:30 p.m. EDT (1730 GMT), but he is unlikely to announce any outline new measures to boost the economy.

We have our unemployment claims numbers this morning, then you have Bernanke later today and the Obama speech tonight, so everybody is going to be positioning in front of these events, said Paul Mendelsohn, chief investment strategist at Windham Financial Services in Charlotte, Vermont.

All (Obama) can really do, as I see it, is create a moral boost to the country. It's a very difficult battle. He's trying to fight a long-term problem with a short-term solution.

S&P 500 futures fell 5.5 points and were slightly below fair value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the contract. Dow Jones industrial average futures dipped 7 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures took off 3 points.

The European Central Bank held interest rates at 1.5 percent and is likely to indicate a policy tightening cycle begun in April is on hold in the face of more evidence the region's recovery is losing momentum. European stocks pared gains after the decision.

A U.S. appeals court has ruled a fraud lawsuit against Bank of America Corp and Wells Fargo & Co and other lenders involving mortgage practices cannot proceed. Bank of America shares gained 0.8 percent to $7.54 in premarket trade.

PerkinElmer Inc
is buying Caliper Life Sciences Inc to broaden its reach in molecular imaging and genomic detection technologies. Caliper shares surged 40.7 percent to $10.40 in premarket trading.

In Asia, the Nikkei stock average pulled further away from a six-month low hit this week, boosted by optimism about Europe solving its debt crisis, but the rise was tempered by continuing uncertainty about the U.S. economic outlook.

(Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)