U.S. stock index futures pointed to a higher open on Thursday after the Federal Reserve said it was more upbeat about the economy and Greece looked closer to a bailout deal.
The Fed pledged to keep rates lower for an extended period and was also more positive about employment prospects. Greece's borrowing costs eased after an EU official said talks with Greece on an aid package should be completed within days.
Procter & Gamble Co and Exxon Mobil Corp fell, with P&G down 1.2 percent to $62.40 and Exxon off 1.7 percent to $68. P&G forecast results below estimates and Exxon recorded a profit below expectations.
On the upside, profits from both Aetna Inc and Visa Inc beat expectations, and Visa raised its revenue outlook.
It's encouraging that the EU and IMF are working to contain the issue in Greece, but at the same time, the markets are no longer patient with companies that aren't posting top-line revenue growth, said Alan Gayle, senior investment strategist, RidgeWorth Investments in Richmond, Virginia.
S&P 500 futures rose 7.4 points and were above fair value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the contract. Dow Jones industrial average futures jumped 36 points, while Nasdaq 100 futures gained 12 points.
Also on Thursday, the government said unemployment claims fell slightly less than expected in the latest week, suggesting a gradual labor market improvement. Stock futures did not react.
Claims are still hovering at that tipping point around 450,000, which we think is the junction between corporate hiring and continuing a wait-and-see process, Gayle said. In that sense, the report is moving in the right direction but is inconclusive.
On the mergers-and-acquisition front, Hewlett-Packard Co agreed to buy Palm Inc for $1.2 billion, while Medtronic Inc will acquire ATS Medical Inc , a maker of heart valves, for $370 million. Palm surged 26 percent to $5.81 premarket, while ATS soared 53 percent at $3.97.
Financial stocks will also be in the spotlight after U.S. President Barack Obama welcomed a unanimous Senate vote to take up a sweeping financial reform bill.
In Europe, the pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index <.FTEU3> of top shares was up more than 1 percent in early trading. European stocks were pummeled following debt downgrades for Spain on Wednesday, and Greece and Portugal on Tuesday.
Hong Kong shares ended lower, tracking a late sell-off in Chinese stocks.
(Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)