U.S. stock index futures pointed to a mixed open on Wall Street on Thursday, with futures for the S&P 500 up 0.11 percent, Dow Jones futures unchanged and Nasdaq 100 futures down 0.11 percent at 4 a.m. EST.

On the earnings front, chipmaker Intel is scheduled to post quarterly results after the bell on Thursday, kicking off the tech sector earnings.

Shares in financial institutions will be in focus as President Barack Obama will announce on Thursday plans to raise money from major financial firms to cover expected losses from a taxpayer-funded bank bailout.

Resource-related shares will be in the spotlight after mining major Rio Tinto beat its own forecast for iron ore output in the fourth quarter, signaling robust demand from Chinese steel-makers, while South Korea's POSCO <005490.KS>, the world's No.4 steelmaker, reported a 14 percent rise in quarterly operating profit.

On the macro side, Australian employment blew past expectations for a fourth straight month in December while the jobless rate fell to an eight-month low, fuelling hopes of a swift recovery for the global economy.

Oil rose past $80 a barrel on Thursday as traders moved to cover short positions, taking advantage of a drop to 2010 lows the previous day on surprise gains in U.S. distillates and crude stocks.

Google will be in the spotlight after China showed no sign of giving ground on censorship as the U.S. Internet giant threatened to quit the country, telling companies on Thursday to cooperate with state control of the Internet.

TSMC <2330.TW> , the world's biggest contract chipmaker, said it will recruit more than 3,000 employees, or about 13 percent of its total workforce, in 2010 as it expands capacity to meet future demand.

Panasonic Corp <6752.T> has hired IBM Corp to run a web-based email system for the Japanese electronics giant's entire 380,000 strong workforce, the industry's largest cloud computing contract to date.

The Nikkei average <.N225> booked its highest close in 15 months on Thursday, buoyed by tech firms such as Panasonic on hopes the upcoming U.S. earnings season will show a rebound in a key market for Japanese manufacturers, while European stocks rose 0.5 percent in morning trade, boosted by banking and mining shares, with investors bracing for the European Central Bank's interest rate decision and comments.

U.S. stocks rose on Wednesday as investors bet on recently weakened technology and financial shares ahead of earnings from bellwethers Intel Corp and JPMorgan Chase & Co , taking the Dow industrials to a fresh 15-month high.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> gained 53.51 points, or 0.50 percent, to 10,680.77. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> added 9.46 points, or 0.83 percent, to 1,145.68. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> rose 25.59 points, or 1.12 percent, to 2,307.90.

(Reporting by Blaise Robinson; Editing by Mike Nesbit)