Stock index futures pointed to a flat open on Wall Street on Thursday, with futures for the S&P 500, for the Dow Jones and for the Nasdaq 100 trading little changed.

* The Labor Department releases first-time claims for jobless benefits for the week ended April 2 at 1230 GMT. Economists in a Reuters survey forecast a total of 385,000 new filings compared with 388,000 in the previous week.

* General Electric is set to announce on Thursday that it will build America's largest photovoltaic panel factory, with the goal of becoming a major player in the market, the New York Times reported.

* ICSC will release chain store sales for March versus a year ago. In the previous month, sales rose 4.2 percent versus a year earlier.

* Pharmaceutical company SuperGen Inc plans to buy privately-held biotechnology firm Astex Therapeutics Limited, the companies said on Wednesday.

* Global investment bank Goldman Sachs Group is seeking to buy the 55 percent of its Australian and New Zealand joint venture that it does not already own, the company said in a statement on Thursday.

* Bed Bath and Beyond Inc shares jumped 6.3 percent late on Wednesday after the company reported its results.

* The European Central Bank is poised to raise interest rates from a record low 1.0 percent on Thursday, with more hikes likely to follow. However, fearful of heaping more pain on the euro zone's stragglers, the ECB is expected to give few clues about when the next move will come.

* The Bank of England is almost certain to ignore criticism that it has gone soft on inflation and leave interest rates at a record low on Thursday due to uncertainty about the strength of Britain's fragile recovery.

* Portugal's financial sector can expect some relief after the caretaker government decided to seek financial aid after months of what many economists said was a refusal to acknowledge economic reality.

* Brent crude fell after five straight days of gains, slipping below $122 a barrel on concern that rising prices will hurt demand from the world's top oil consumers the United States and China.

* Japan's Nikkei average <.N225> closed 0.1 percent higher on Thursday, while the FTSEurofirst 300 <.FTEU3> index of top European shares was up 0.3 percent, led higher by financials after Portugal said it would seek financial aid.

* On Wednesday, the Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> rose 32.85 points, or 0.27 percent, to close at 12,426.75. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> gained 2.91 points, or 0.22 percent, to 1,335.54. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> advanced 8.63 points, or 0.31 percent, to 2,799.82.

(Reporting by Atul Prakash; Editing by Hans Peters)