Stock index futures pointed to a higher open on Wall Street on Thursday, with futures for the S&P 500, the Dow Jones and the Nasdaq 100 up 0.1 to 0.3 percent.

* News Corp secured UK government backing for its controversial buyout of BSkyB on Thursday after the minister responsible rejected complaints the move would give Rupert Murdoch too much power and influence.

* The Labor Department releases at 1230 GMT first-time claims for jobless benefits for the week ended June 25. Economists forecast a total of 420,000 new filings compared with 429,000 in the prior week.

* AMR Corp's American Airlines is negotiating with aircraft makers Airbus and Boeing Co to replace its entire domestic fleet by purchasing at least 250 airplanes in a deal valued at about $15 billion, the Wall Street Journal reported.

* The Institute for Supply Management-New York releases at 1230 GMT June index of regional business activity. In May, the

index read 534.0.

* At 1345 GMT, the Institute of Supply Management Chicago releases June index of manufacturing activity. Economists in a

Reuters survey forecast a June reading of 54.0 compared with 56.6 in May.

* Greece's government expects to pass a second austerity bill on Thursday to pull the country back from default by securing more EU and IMF funds.

* The Federal Reserve ends its $600 billion bond-buying program, known as QE2, on Thursday and has yet to offer any hints of more monetary easing to come.

* Eli Lilly and Co is committed to spending what it takes to come up with innovative drugs over the long term, its chief executive said, even though the company's earnings are expected to tumble over the next three years.

* Companies reporting results include Apollo Group , Darden Restaurants Inc and McCormick & Co Inc .

* The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> gained 72.73 points, or 0.60 percent, to 12,261.42 on Wednesday. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> rose 10.74 points, or 0.83 percent, to 1,307.41. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> added 11.18 points, or 0.41 percent, to 2,740.49.

* The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 <.FTEU3> index of top shares was up 0.2 percent on Thursday, while Japan's Nikkei average <.N225> closed 0.2 percent higher.

(Reporting by Atul Prakash; Editing by Hans-Juergen Peters)