Stock index futures pointed to slight gains at the open on Thursday after jobless claims fell more than expected, boosting optimism about the upcoming January payrolls report.
New claims for unemployment benefits dropped by 12,000 to a seasonally adjusted 367,000, versus the forecast of 375,000.
On Friday, the government will release the January non-farm payroll report, and economists forecast 150,000 jobs were added in January, a decline from the previous month, which benefited from holiday hiring.
A report on Wednesday showed private sector job creation slowed more than expected in January, raising some caution about the sector.
People will expect a slightly better payroll report because of this, and with the market at these lofty levels, you need to have continued good news for the market to sustain its gains, said Uri Landesman, president of the New York-based Platinum Partners.
S&P 500 futures rose 1 point 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 added 7 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures put on 2 points.
A handful of U.S. retailers beat expectations for January same-store sales, but analysts are not so optimistic about department store chains and apparel chains. In premarket trading, Target Corp
On Wednesday, equities rallied almost 1 percent on upbeat global manufacturing data and optimism Greece was closing in on a deal with private creditors.
Materials and other cyclical groups could gain on hopes that China, the world's largest consumer of metals, would further ease monetary policy to stimulate its economy.
Facebook could raise as much as $10 billion in the biggest-ever Internet initial public offering, according to a filing Wednesday. In 2011, Facebook said net income rose 65 percent to $1 billion on revenue of $3.71 billion.
Shares of JPMorgan Chase & Co
Drugmaker Merck & Co Inc
Dow Chemical Co
Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Inc
Earnings have been decent relative to history, but compared with last year they're disappointing, said Rick Fier, vice president at Conifer Securities in New York, which has about $12 billion in assets under administration. We're seeing a slowing in revenue growth.
In other economic data due Thursday, the Institute for Supply Management-New York releases the January index of regional business activity at 9:45 a.m. EST (1445 GMT) In December, the index read 534.0.
Investors will also scour testimony from U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, who will speak on the state of the economy before the House Budget Committee at 10 a.m. EST (1500 GMT).
U.S. stocks extended January's rally on Wednesday, but some strategists see the benchmark S&P 500 approaching a short-term top after gaining 4.4 percent last month.
(Reporting by Ryan Vlastelica; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)