Sentiment is likely to be stung after the Federal Reserve said that several policymakers want to begin selling securities relatively soon to cut back the U.S. central bank's massive help to the financial system as the economy finds a footing.
Wal-Mart's fourth-quarter results will show how the world's biggest retailer fared during the critical holiday sales period. Analysts expect the company to post earnings per share (EPS) of $1.12 from $1.03 a year earlier.
Dell, the world's No. 3 PC maker, is expected to post fourth quarter EPS of $0.27 against $0.29 a year ago. Dell struggled through the economic downturn and investors hope the firm will say it benefited from a strong uptick in corporate spending on IT hardware, although deep market share losses and a lack of diversity in its business model may still worry Wall Street.
Other companies reporting on Thursday include CBS Corp, Intuit , Noble Energy, Apache Corp and Hormel Foods.
Stronger-than-expected corporate results and upbeat economic data drove U.S. stocks higher on Wednesday as they fed expectations the recovery will bolster corporate profits. The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> added 0.4 percent, the Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> also rose 0.4 percent and the Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> gained 0.6 percent.
Shares in Hewlett Packard rose 1.2 percent after the bell on Wednesday as the company reported results.
Shares in Applied Materials Inc rose nearly 2 percent to $13.21 after the bell after the company posted its quarterly results.
Shares in Priceline.com Inc rose more than 7 percent to $228.24 after the bell after the company posted its fourth-quarter results.
Shares in Nvidia Corp dropped more than 3 percent to $17.20 after the bell after the company reported quarterly results.
In Europe, shares drifted lower in early trade, with banking stocks under pressure after Societe Generale results disappointed, overshadowing gains in industrial engineers.
On the macroeconomic front, U.S. producer prices for January will be eyed at 1330 GMT. The week ahead jobless claims are also for release at 1330 GMT (8:30 a.m. EST). The Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank's business activity index is set for release at 1500 GMT (10 a.m. EST).
Gold prices will be in focus after the International Monetary Fund said it would soon begin sales of 191.3 tonnes of gold remaining in its plan to raise new resources for lending, with traders saying it may seek buyers among Asian central banks.
(Reporting by Harpreet Bhal; Editing by Sharon Lindores)