U.S. stock index futures pointed to a higher open on Wall Street on Thursday, with futures for the S&P 500 up 0.3 percent, Dow Jones futures up 0.5 percent and Nasdaq 100 futures up 0.5 percent at 0906 GMT.

European stocks were up 0.7 percent in morning trade, halting a steep one-week drop, but the gains were seen boosted in part by short covering while negative news on the corporate front, from Credit Agricole's profit warning to Telefonica's dividend cut, kept investors on edge.

On the macro front, investors awaited a flurry of data, including November Producer Price Index as well as industrial production and capacity utilisation figures.

Retailers will be in the spotlight after Swedish fashion group Hennez & Mauritz (H&M) posted a third straight monthly fall in sales at established stores in November as economic woes and unusually warm autumn weather across its main markets kept customers away from the shops.

China's factory output shrank again in December after new orders fell, the HSBC flash manufacturing purchasing managers' index (PMI) showed, cementing expectations that manufacturers are struggling with waning global demand and tight domestic credit conditions.

China has further revised up its solar power development target for 2015 by 50 percent from its previous plan, state media reported on Thursday.

Dynegy Holdings, a unit of energy producer Dynegy Inc , entered into a settlement with the Public Service Enterprise Group Inc that had filed for dismissal of the company's bankruptcy motion.

Aetna Inc, the third largest U.S. health insurer, raised its estimate for 2011 and 2012 operating earnings per share and said it bought back 40 million shares through Dec 9 this year.

U.S. stocks fell for a third day and hit their lowest level in two weeks on Wednesday as widespread risk aversion sank commodity prices, sent the euro to an 11-month low against the dollar and drove Italy's borrowing costs to a euro-era high.

The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 131.46 points, or 1.10 percent, to 11,823.48. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index fell 13.91 points, or 1.13 percent, to 1,211.82. The Nasdaq Composite Index lost 39.96 points, or 1.55 percent, to 2,539.31.

The S&P 500 fell below its 50-day moving average, signaling a breakdown of its recent trading range between that level and the 200-day moving average at the top end. The move has some analysts expecting further weakness.