Wall Street was set to open higher on Thursday, following two days of declines for the S&P 500, after weekly jobless claims fell, offering hope for the anemic labor market recovery.
Initial claims for state unemployment insurance dropped by 11,000 to a seasonally adjusted 457,000 in the latest week, versus the forecast of 459,000, the government said.
Getting an absolute drop in claims is positive, and this is good from an economic standpoint, said John Brady, senior vice president at MF Global in Chicago.
From a technical standpoint, we could see a pretty positive session today, especially with earnings remaining strong.
Technical measures, such as the daily moving average convergence-divergence, indicate the S&P 500 is in a strong position to rise, even though it has not been able to repeat a close above its 200-day moving average since Monday.
The key now for the (S&P 500) is to hold above the 50-day line, near 1,080, which if it can, would put a lot of stress (on short-sellers), technical analysts at Instinet said.
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 gained 65 points and Nasdaq 100 futures added 11.5 points.
Exxon Mobil Corp , the S&P's largest company by market capitalization, rose nearly 1 percent to $61.40 in premarket trade after reporting a better-than-expected quarterly profit.
The Select Sector energy ETF rose 0.8 percent.
France's Sanofi-Aventis plans to make a formal offer of up to $18.7 billion for Genzyme Corp after an informal overture failed to strike interest, sources said. Genzyme shares rose 4.4 percent to $71.
U.S.-traded shares of AstraZeneca Plc rose 1.6 percent to $42.34 as the London-based drug company doubled its share buyback program after posting strong results.
Sony Corp <6758.T> recorded an unexpected quarterly profit and raised its full-year outlook. Its U.S. traded shares jumped 6.2 percent to $31.40.
Further supporting equities, euro zone economic sentiment rose to a 28-month high in July while German unemployment fell to its lowest level since November 2008, boosting hopes for a pickup in the consumer sector.
U.S. stocks fell on Wednesday after weak durable goods data and a downbeat economic assessment from the Federal Reserve's Beige Book kept the benchmark S&P 500 trapped below its 200-day moving average.
(Additional reporting by Ryan Vlastelica; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)