Texas Instruments Inc gained 0.8 percent to $25.35 in premarket trading and could lift technology and semiconductor stocks after the company raised its third-quarter forecast, expecting to ride a gradual recovery in the global semiconductor industry.
Dow component Procter & Gamble Co gained 1.7 percent to $54.67 before the bell after it affirmed its earnings forecast for the current quarter and said sales would improve in the next quarter.
But the optimism was offset by Monsanto Co forecast for fiscal 2010 earnings below Wall Street's estimates, partly because of a glut of herbicide supply. Monsanto slid 7.2 percent to $77.45 in premarket trading.
We are somewhat overbought short term, so I think the burden of proof is going to be on bulls to overcome Monsanto's lower-guidance impact on the bigger market, said Michael James, senior trader at regional investment bank Wedbush Morgan in Los Angeles.
It's going to cause some angst for a company this big to lower guidance this much for next year, and its potential read through to the overall economy, James said.
Data on Thursday showed initial and continued jobless claims fell last week, according to a government report. High unemployment is one of the biggest concerns as the economy attempts to pull out of recession.
S&P 500 futures rose 0.3 points and were about even with 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 14 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures were up 4.25 points.
Investor focus also will be on health insurance stocks after President Barack Obama's speech to Congress on Wednesday night pushing for healthcare reform. Obama told Congress to end its political bickering and move quickly on a broad overhaul of the health system and insurance market.
Aetna Inc was up 0.9 percent at $29.50.
Stocks rose for a fourth-straight day of gains on Wednesday, pushing the S&P 500 to its best finish so far this year as industrial and technology companies gained from a weak dollar. It was the highest close for the broad index since early October when it ended at 1,056.89.
(Editing by Padraic Cassidy)