Concern over the debt crisis in Greece has dampened confidence, and equity markets have been sensitive to statements and reports of potential aid. European Union leaders were meeting to lay the foundations for a financial bailout of Greece at a summit in Brussels, in what would be the first rescue of a euro zone member since the currency was created 11 years ago.
Several key euro zone officials reached a deal to help Greece in its debt crisis, European Union President Herman Van Rompuy said.
It will be a template for any of the other European countries with sovereign debt issues, said Jamie Cox, managing partner of Harris Financial Group in Colonial Heights, Virginia.
There will be some type of rescue package. Europe is not going to let any of its EU member nations default because that would be ruinous for the currency.
U.S. economic data on Thursday includes a Labor Department report on first-time claims for jobless benefits for last week, due at 8:30 a.m. EST. Economists in a Reuters survey forecast a total of 465,000 new filings, compared with 480,000 in the prior week.
S&P 500 futures rose 4.8 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 were up 30 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures gained 5.25 points.
Stocks dipped on Wednesday as worries over Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's comments on U.S. monetary policy once the economy recovers offset optimism from a potential resolution of Greece's debt woes.
Highlighting the weakness of the labor market, U.S. President Barack Obama warned the country's recovery would not be complete until more people find work and the United States borrows less money.
American International Group has lined up major investment banks to underwrite the public listing of its Asian life insurance unit, banking sources said.
Ohio utility FirstEnergy Corp will buy Pennsylvania utility Allegheny Energy Inc in an all-stock deal worth $4.7 billion, the companies said. Allegheny was up 16.6 percent at $24.50 in light premarket action.
Marriott International Inc reported quarterly results that beat expectations on better-than-expected revenue and improved demand from corporate clients.
(Editing by Padraic Cassidy)