Stock index futures pointed to modest gains at the open on Thursday as a decline in Italian bond yields offset a weak reading on jobless claims a day after the S&P 500's gains for the year were erased.

Initial jobless claims rose more than expected to 381,000, though the four-week average fell to 375,000, giving a mixed picture on the labor market. Futures had little reaction to the data.

Italian yields fell from recent record highs at a short-term debt auction, but yields for 10-year paper remained near 7 percent, a level near where other euro zone governments have been forced to seek bailouts.

Claims came in pretty close to what was expected, and still under 400,000, so it isn't a surprise, said Wayne Kaufman, chief market analyst at John Thomas Financial in New York. He added that the data wouldn't have much influence on market direction in one of the most lightly traded weeks of the year.

The only thing impacting trading right now is Europe. Everyone is watching Italy, he said. It's the situation that won't go away.

S&P 500 futures rose 3.7 points and were above 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 added 24 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures were up 7 points.

Concerns over the euro zone sovereign debt crisis, which had receded recently, resurfaced Wednesday, sparking a 1 percent decline in major indexes. S&P 500 gains for the year were erased and the index pulled back below its 200-day moving average.

The selloff followed the euro's slide to an 11-month low against the U.S. dollar, prompted by worries over the debt crisis. On Thursday, the euro sank to its lowest since September 2010 against the dollar while the European Central Bank moved to support Italian bond markets.

It's encouraging to see that yields have come in a bit, but it isn't indicative of a complete easing of the crisis in Europe, said David Katz, principal in charge of Weiser Capital Management's asset management division in New York.

In a normal environment this would be having a bigger impact, but with volume so low I don't expect a lot to happen (in equity markets) until the end of the year.

Chicago PMI data for December were due at 9:45 a.m. EST (1445 GMT) and was seen dropping to 61.0 from 62.6 in the previous month, while November pending home sales are seen rising 2 percent, a smaller increase than October's. The housing data is scheduled for release at 10 a.m. EST (1500 GMT).

Recent economic data, including reports on the housing market, have been largely positive, contributing to Wall Street gains over the past month and the view that economic growth is picking up steam.

Before Wednesday's selloff, the S&P had risen for five straight sessions, and some traders saw the index as overbought. Many investors were not expected to make large bets until after the New Year, and trading volume has been low because of the holidays.

Fertilizer producer Mosaic Co said late Wednesday it will cut production of phosphate, a key nutrient used for crop production, because prices have fallen to unsustainable levels. The stock fell 4.6 percent to $48 in premarket trading.

Standard & Poor's placed Sears Holdings Corp's credit rating on review for a possible downgrade, saying the retailer's plan to close at least 100 stores may not do much to improve its performance.

U.S. stocks fell more than 1 percent on Wednesday putting the brakes on a hefty year-end rally. With the decline the S&P is now down 0.6 percent for the year, while the Nasdaq is down 2.4 percent. The Dow is up 5 percent.

(Reporting By Ryan Vlastelica; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)