Stock index futures pointed to a slightly higher open on Thursday after labor market data indicated the economy continued to slowly recover.
With a Greek debt deal reached this week, investors will switch their attention back to U.S. economic data and corporate results for market direction.
New U.S. claims for unemployment held at 351,000 last week, the lowest level since the early days of the 2007-2009 recession, a fresh sign the battered labor market was healing.
The trend is right there at about 350,000 and that puts us right smack in the middle of the 300,000 to 400,000 sweet spot that you need to see confirming the economy is on the mend from a job creation perspective, said Phil Orlando, chief equity market strategist at Federated Investors in New York.
But gains in futures were muted despite the data, making it likely the benchmark S&P 500 index will again face a tough test in piercing the 1,360 level, a 10-month high seen as a key resistance point.
While a convincing break above 1,360 could trigger more gains, the likelihood of a pullback increases with each failed attempt. The S&P has risen more than 20 percent from its October lows and is up 8 percent for the year.
In order for us to get to the next level, either we need to see a little bit of a pullback that will draw in some investors who have been sitting on the sidelines, or we need to see some significant fundamental surprises coming out of domestic economic fundamentals, Europe, Washington, the emerging markets or the Middle East, said Orlando.
S&P 500 futures rose 0.4 point and were slightly 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 6 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures added 3.25 points.
Fellow retailer Target Corp
Sears Holdings Corp
Other companies expected to post earnings Thursday include Salesforce.com Inc
According to Thomson Reuters data through Wednesday morning, of the 424 companies in the S&P 500 that have reported earnings, 64 percent topped analysts' expectations.
(Reporting By Chuck Mikolajczak; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)