Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. REUTERS

Futures on major U.S. stock indices point to modestly higher opening on Thursday ahead of economic data, including key weekly U.S. jobs data from the government.

Futures on the S&P 500 are up 0.13 percent, futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average are up 0.13 percent and Nasdaq100 futures are up 0.20 percent.

Investors are likely to focus on weekly initial jobless claims, Building Permits , Housing Starts and Current Account data which are due to be released before the markets open, while reports on Philadelphia Fed Manufacturing Index and Natural Gas Storage will be released after the markets open.

The Department of Labor is due to report the initial jobless claims data at 8:30 am EDT. Economists forecast initial jobless claims to be 425,000 for the week ended December 11 against 421,000 of the previous week. Any data that is weaker than expected will weigh on market sentiments.

Housing Starts are expected to gain by 6 percent to reach 550,000 after plunging 11.7 percent to 519,000 starts in the previous month, while building permits are expected to reach 570,000 compared to 550,000 in the previous month. Philadelphia Fed index is expected to show decline during December 22.5 to 14.10.

Stocks on Wall Street drifted lower on Wednesday, erasing an early-session rally, as the dollar jumped and traders weighed a credit downgrade warning on Spain and the U.S. Senate’s passage of the $885-billion tax cut extension bill.

The euro advanced 0.23 percent to 1.3244 against the dollar and the yen gained 0.24 percent against the greenback.

Crude oil futures declined 0.41 percent to $88.26/barrel and gold futures declined 0.01 percent.

European stock markets are currently trading higher with FTSE 100 up by 17.63 points, DAX30 up by 7.68 points and CAC 40 up by 10.17 points.