Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average were up 0.11 percent, futures on the Standard & Poor's 500 Index were up 0.18 percent and those on the Nasdaq 100 Index were up 0.24 percent.
The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis will publish on Thursday the second estimate of the country's fourth quarter GDP, which measures the annualized change in the inflation-adjusted value of all goods and services produced by the economy. The U.S. economy is expected to have expanded 0.5 percent in the fourth quarter, compared with a 3.1 percent gain in the third quarter. The first estimate of the fourth quarter's GDP, which was reported last month, showed that the economy contracted 0.1 percent, the first contraction since 2009.
“Real GDP in Q4 is expected to be revised from a decline of 0.1 percent to a rise of 0.5 percent. The first estimate by the BEA was made without December data on international trade. December net exports were well above the assumptions used in the advance GDP report and point to an upward revision to growth,” a note from Credit Agricole said.
Investors are also waiting for weekly U.S. jobless claims data to be reported on 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 decline to 360,000 in the week ending Feb. 23, from 362,000 the previous week.
In addition, the Chicago Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) for February will be released after the opening bell. Economists expect a reading of 54.3 in February, down from 55.6 in January.
On the corporate front, shares of J.C. Penney Co. Inc. (NYSE:JCP), Groupon Inc. (NASDAQ:GRPN) and Sturm Ruger & Co. Inc. (NYSE:RGR) will be in focus after their quarterly earnings were reported late Wednesday.
J.C. Penney reported that its fourth quarter net loss widened to $552 million or $2.51 per share from $87 million or $0.41 per share in the same period last year. Adjusted loss was $1.95 per share compared with net profit of $0.21 per share last year, and the loss was significantly worse than Reuters’ estimate of a loss of $0.18 per share.
U.S. stock markets surged Wednesday as stronger-than-expected economic data, better-than-expected bond auctions in Italy, and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's stimulus reassurances seemed to lift the market. The Dow Jones Industrial Average surged 1.26 percent, the S&P 500 Index was up 1.27 percent and the Nasdaq Composite Index gained 1.04 percent.
Data released by the Census Bureau on Wednesday showed that durable goods orders fell 5.2 percent in January due to a sharp decline in commercial and defense aircraft orders. But the core durable goods orders for January, which excluded the transportation items, increased 1.9 percent, the largest gain in more than a year, and well above analysts’ estimate of a 0.2 percent gain. Meanwhile, another report showed that Pending Home Sales surged to the highest level in more than two-and-a-half years.
European stock markets were trading higher with Germany's DAX30 up 0.81 percent, France's CAC 40 gaining 0.29 percent and London's FTSE 100 advancing 0.47 percent.
Asian stock markets rallied Wednesday after the Japanese government nominated Haruhiko Kuroda, the governor for the Asia Development Bank and an aggressive advocate of monetary easing policy, as the next BOJ governor and the country's Fed chief reconfirmed the government's commitment to its stimulus measures.
The Japanese Nikkei climbed 2.71 percent, the Chinese Shanghai Composite surged 2.26 percent and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng gained 1.96 percent, while South Korea’s KOSPI Composite advanced 1.12 percent.