Futures for the Dow Jones industrial average, the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq 100 rise 0.1 to 0.2 percent, pointing to a firmer open on Wall Street on Thursday, after sharp declines in the previous session.

Labor Dept releases at 8:30 a.m. EST first-time claims for jobless benefits for the week ended May 1. Economists in a Reuters survey forecast a total of 440,000 new filings compared with 448,000 in the prior week.

Kraft, the largest North American food company, is scheduled to report quarterly results. Expectations are for earnings of 45 cents per share for the March quarter, unchanged from a year ago, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

At 8:30 a.m. EST, Labor Dept releases preliminary Q1 Productivity and Unit Labor Costs. Economists expect productivity to rise 2.5 percent versus a 6.9 percent increase in Q2. Unit Labor Costs are expected to fall 0.7 percent compared with a 5.9 decline in the previous report.

Japan's Nikkei average <.N225> slid 3.3 percent to a two-month closing low on Thursday, catching up with falls in other markets after a string of holidays in Japan, as more signs emerged that the fallout from the Greek debt crisis may spread to bigger European economies.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday that Europe's fate was at stake, while France declared the euro was under speculative attack but that it would fail. And the Greek government vowed not to retreat a single step despite violence in Athens.

The European Central Bank will be under pressure on Thursday to show it can stop the Greek debt crisis from engulfing other euro zone member states, with investors keen for signs it has further ammunition up its sleeve. The central bank is expected to hold rates at a record low of 1.0 percent.

The euro tumbled to a 14-month low against the dollar, European credit default swaps widened sharply for a third consecutive day and gold priced in euros hit a record high on Thursday on concerns about Greece.

Britons began voting on Thursday in what is forecast to be the closest election since 1992, with the opposition Conservatives struggling to convert their opinion poll advantage into an outright majority.

Oil workers, volunteers and the military prepared to toil for another day in the Gulf of Mexico on Thursday in an attempt to plug a gushing oil leak and protect the U.S. coast from an environmental nightmare.

Cigna closes out the first-quarter reporting season for large health insurers.

Shares of CBS Corp fell 3.4 percent in extended trade on Wednesday, Symantec Corp rose 4.1 percent and Clearwire Corp gained 3.2 percent after the companies reported quarterly results.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is looking into disclosures made by billionaire investors Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc as it sought to purchase Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday, citing people familiar with the matter.

European shares edged higher on Thursday after hitting two-month lows as the banking sector rebounded from earlier falls after strong results from BNP Paribas .

U.S. stocks sagged on Wednesday. The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> dropped 58.65 points, or 0.54 percent, to 10,868.12. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> fell 7.73 points, or 0.66 percent, to 1,165.87. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC>lost 21.96 points, or 0.91 percent, to 2,402.29.

(Reporting by Atul Prakash; Editing by Mike Nesbit)