Benchmark stock indexes looked likely to open lower on Thursday, index futures showed, and analysts said earnings from two top banks and remarks by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke would be in focus.

On the economic data front, eyes will be on weekly jobless claims due at 1230 GMT and on the Philadelphia Fed's gauge of mid-Atlantic manufacturing activity (Philly-Fed) at 1600 GMT.

By 0940 GMT, futures pointed to falls of between 0.2 and 0.3 percent for the leading indexes, all three of which have rallied in the past two days following the Federal Reserve's key rate cut.

The indicative Dow Jones index, which tracks how the Dow Jones industrial stocks are traded in Frankfurt, was marginally in the black.

Today, people will be paying attention to the banks' quarterly numbers as well as to Ben Bernanke's speech and the Philly Fed index, German bank Helaba said in a note.

Investment banks Goldman Sachs and Bear Stearns are due to report quarterly results, with Goldman's earnings per share (EPS) seen up by a third to $4.32, while the market consensus for Bear Stearns is for an EPS drop of the same magnitude to $1.98.

In Frankfurt, Goldman Sachs shares were down 1 percent at 0935 GMT, and Bear Stearns down 0.7 percent at 0940 GMT.


The Federal Reserve chairman is due to testify at 1400 GMT on the Subprime Crisis and Solution before a House Financial Services Committee hearing.

Treasury Secretary Harry Paulson testifies before the same committee on Legislative and Regulatory Options for Minimizing and Mitigating Mortgage Foreclosures, also at 1400 GMT.

Markets are again in search of evidence on the shape of the U.S. economy. Insights will be offered today by Bernanke and Paulson's testimony, Italian bank UniCredit said in a note.

Addressing the same theme of U.S. economic health, Goldman Sachs said of the jobless claims readings and the Philly Fed that though they were generally not top-tier releases, with the focus on the 'timeliest indicators', they deserve more attention than usual.

In corporate news, share market Nasdaq could be in the spotlight after it and Borse Dubai agreed to team up and buy Nordic markets operator OMX, ending a protracted takeover battle.

Another stock in focus could be Biocryst Pharmaceuticals, which dropped 35 percent after the closing bell on Wednesday after the company said preliminary results from a Phase II clinical trial of Peramivir with influenza patients were not statistically significant.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 0.55 percent to close at 13,815.56 points on Wednesday. The Standard & Poor's 500 gained 0.61 percent, and the Nasdaq Composite advanced 0.56 percent.

The (U.S.) stock market seems to be well protected from sliding, Erste Bank said in a strategy note. On technical charts, the S&P 500 was right in the middle of a beautiful uptrend channel, it said.

However, the potential of an increase is not all that great because the (U.S.) economy's dynamic is giving an ailing impression, Erste said.

We assess the development of the U.S. stock market as stable in the coming months, said the Austrian bank, which is underweight U.S. equities.