Stock index futures pointed to a dip at the open on Wall Street on Thursday, with futures for the S&P 500 down 0.16 percent, Dow Jones down 0.17 percent and Nasdaq 100 down 0.06 percent at 5:30 a.m.

European stocks were up 0.4 percent in morning trade in low volume, as investors awaited to see if the European Central Bank would cut interest rates and if euro zone leaders would agree on a decisive plan to fight the euro zone debt crisis at Friday's EU summit.

The ECB is expected to cut rates and unveil a new package of bank aid, while investors will also look for any hint the central bank will intensify its bond buying support for the euro zone's struggling peripheral economies, setting the stage for a critical euro zone summit.

Late on Wednesday, Standard & Poor's warned it could cut the credit ratings of the European Union and large euro-zone banks if a mass downgrade of euro-zone countries materializes. The ratings agency said on Monday it may downgrade nearly all 17 euro-zone countries if EU leaders fail to agree on a solution for the region's debt crisis during Friday's summit.

The potential downgrade of the European Union would likely increase its borrowing costs, making it more costly for it to fund financial aid programs for member states.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said on Thursday the U.S. and the world economy have a very strong interest in efforts being made to strengthen the euro.

Credit rating agency Moody's Investors Service revised the outlooks of 119 local governments and two states that are indirectly linked to the U.S. government to stable from negative, it said on Wednesday.

On the macro-economic front, investors awaited first-time claims for jobless benefits for the week ended December 3. Economists in a Reuters survey forecast a total of 395,000 new filings compared with 402,000 in the prior week. Data on wholesale inventories for October were also due.

Alibaba Group is seeking up to $4 billion in debt financing, sources familiar with the matter said on Thursday, in a deal expected to help the Chinese e-commerce group buy back a 40 percent stake in the company owned by Yahoo Inc .

Chevron Corp is to increase its spending in 2012 by about a sixth as it invests heavily in deepwater developments and two massive Australian liquefied natural gas projects.

McGraw-Hill Companies Inc launched a $500 million accelerated share repurchase program and said it will cut about 550 jobs from its textbook unit as it proceeds to split into two companies.

Tax authorities have hit Boston Scientific Corp with a bill for $581 million in back taxes plus interest and penalties based on an audit of Guidant Corp from 2004 through 2006, the medical device maker said in a regulatory filing.

Boeing Co is nearing two separate deals with the world's No. 2 package delivery company FedEx Corp and discount carrier Southwest Airlines Co , according to media reports.

Google Inc said it will invest $300 million in its Hong Kong data centre, due to come online in early 2013, after the company broke ground on Thursday.

Hopes the euro zone will figure out a solution to its debt crisis inspired enough buying to push U.S. stocks to a third day of gains on Wednesday in light trading.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> gained 46.24 points, or 0.38 percent, to 12,196.37. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX><.INX> added 2.55 points, or 0.20 percent, to 1,261.02. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> shed 0.35 points, or 0.01 percent, to 2,649.21.

(Reporting by Blaise Robinson; Editing by David Holmes)