U.S. stocks were set for a higher open on Thursday as strong corporate earnings and outlooks supported optimism about the pace of the economic recovery.

Apple Inc climbed 4.4 percent to $357.63 after its results beat Wall Street's expectations as iPhone and Mac computer sales scaled new heights while iPad supplies could not keep up with global demand.

General Electric Co advanced 2 percent to $20.80 after the largest U.S. conglomerate reported an 80 percent surge in first-quarter profit and raised its quarterly dividend.

Morgan Stanley, the second-largest U.S. investment bank, rose 1.8 percent to $26.50 after reporting its first-quarter results.

However, futures trimmed gains after government data showed new U.S. claims for unemployment benefits, despite falling last week, held above the key 400,000 level.

Does it really change the trend of the employment market? No, the trend still seems to be slightly improving but at a very slow rate, said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Avalon Partners in New York.

The news today on the earnings front is quite good.

Other economic data due on Thursday includes leading indicators for March, February home prices and the Philadelphia Fed's index of business conditions for the mid-Atlantic region for April are expected at 10 a.m.

S&P 500 futures added 5 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 37 points and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 19.5 points.

McDonald's Corp slipped 1 percent to $77.60 after the hamburger chain reported a higher quarterly profit and posted March same-store sales.

Qualcomm Inc posted better-than-expected quarterly results and raised its full-year financial targets on improving demand for advanced phones. Shares of the wireless chipmaker gained 3.8 percent to $57.34.


gained 1.9 percent to $56.40 after quarterly profit rose 27 percent due to strong sales of electronic and solar materials, leading the chemical company to boost its earnings forecast.

Fellow Dow component Travelers Cos Inc reported a 30 percent rise in quarterly profit as the largest publicly traded U.S. property insurer saw an increase in investment income. Shares rose 1.6 percent to $60.05.

Volume is expected to remain light on Thursday before a three-day weekend. U.S. markets are closed on Friday in observance of Good Friday.

(Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; Editing by Kenneth Barry)