Stock index futures point to early gains

By @ibtimes on

U.S. stock index futures pointed to a higher open on Wall Street on Thursday, with futures for the S&P 500 up 0.7 percent, Dow Jones futures up 0.6 percent and Nasdaq 100 futures up 0.7 percent at 5.23 a.m. EST.

Oil prices slipped on Thursday, with U.S. crude oil futures down 39 cents at $101.84 a barrel, after the Arab League said a peace plan for Libya was under consideration.

Asian stocks rebounded while European shares were up 0.7 percent in morning trade on optimism over the health of the U.S. economy following forecast-beating data and as oil prices retreated. <.EU>

Valero Energy Corp , the largest U.S. independent refiner, said on Wednesday a trading loss will hurt its first-quarter earnings.

Rupert Murdoch's News Corp took a big step toward securing its prized $14 billion buyout of BSkyB when Britain accepted its proposals to alleviate competition concerns.

U.S. and Brazilian beer drinkers are paying higher prices and moving to more expensive brands, according to Anheuser-Busch InBev , the world's largest brewer.

Twitter has no plan to go public in the near future and does not need additional funds because it is making money, the co-founder of the popular microblogging site said.

On the earnings front, investors awaited results from Big Lots , H.J. Heinz Co. , The Kroger Co. and Novell .

On the macro front, the focus will be on weekly jobless claims as well as on the Institute for Supply Management's February non-manufacturing index. Economists in a Reuters survey forecast a reading of 59.5 versus 59.4 in January.

U.S. stocks eked out gains on Wednesday despite another rise in oil prices as investors bet the latest data signaled the economy could absorb expected higher energy costs.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> was up 8.78 points, or 0.07 percent, at 12,066.80. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> was up 2.11 points, or 0.16 percent, at 1,308.44. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> was up 10.66 points, or 0.39 percent, at 2,748.07.

(Reporting by Blaise Robinson; Editing by Mike Nesbit)

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