Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average were down 0.05 percent, futures on the Standard & Poor's 500 Index were down 0.41 percent and those on the Nasdaq 100 Index were down 1.45 percent.
Investors are likely to focus on the U.S. weekly jobless claims data, to be reported Thursday. The initial jobless claims report, which measures the number of individuals who filed for unemployment insurance for the first time last week, is expected to rise to 355,000 in the week ending Jan. 19, up from 335,000 in the previous week.
Also, investors will continue to focus on earnings reports, with 3M Co. (NYSE: MMM), Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. (NYSE:BMY), Xerox Corp. (NYSE:XRX), AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T), Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE:JNPR), Starbucks Corp. (NASDAQ:SBUX) and Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ:MSFT) expected to announce their quarterly results Thursday.
On Wednesday, U.S. stocks gained as investor confidence was lifted amid encouraging earnings reports from corporations.
McDonald's Corp. (NYSE:MCD) reported before the market opened that the company’s net income rose to $1.40 billion or $1.38 per share in the fourth quarter, up from $1.38 billion or $1.33 per share in the same period the previous year. WellPoint Inc. (NYSE:WLP) reported that the company’s net income rose to $464.2 million in the fourth quarter, from $335.3 million in the same period the previous year.
Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) reported that the company’s net income was $13.1 billion or $13.81 per share in the first quarter compared with $13.1 billion or $13.87 per share in the same period the previous year.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.49 percent, the S&P 500 Index was up 0.15 percent and the Nasdaq Composite Index rose 0.33 percent.
European markets fell Thursday as investor sentiment remained negative with persisting concerns about the debt burden affecting the euro zone. London's FTSE 100 was down 8.16 points, Germany's DAX 30 index fell 36.55 points and France's CAC 40 declined 10.93 points.
Most of the Asian stock markets fell Thursday as investor confidence remained muted even after it was reported that China's manufacturing activity expanded to a two-year high in January, according to the HSBC Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI). The preliminary flash reading of the PMI, a measure of nationwide manufacturing activity, rose to 51.9 in January compared with 51.5 in December. Also, according to data released Thursday by National Statistical Office, South Korea's gross domestic product rose 0.4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012, up from 0.1 percent in the previous quarter.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index fell 44 points, Japan’s Nikkei was up 133.88 points and South Korea’s Kospi Composite Index declined 15.93 points.