Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, November 5, 2010. REUTERS

The U.S. stock index futures pointed to a higher open Thursday ahead of the Department of Labor's weekly jobless claims data and the Department of Commerce's retail sales report.

The futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average were up 0.14 percent, the futures on the Standard & Poor's 500 Index were up 0.12 percent and those on the Nasdaq 100 Index were up 0.25 percent.

Investors are likely to focus on the weekly U.S. jobless claims data to be reported Thursday. The initial jobless claims report, which measures the number of individuals who filed for unemployment insurance for the first time last week, is expected to remain at 370,000 in the week ending Dec. 8, at the same level as in the previous week.

Investors are also likely to focus on the November retail sales report, a foremost indicator of consumer spending which accounts for the majority of overall economic activity, due at 8:30 a.m. EDT Wednesday. Economists predict that the report, measuring change in the total value of inflation-adjusted sales at the retail level, will show a 0.5 percent increase in November against a 0.3 percent decrease in October.

On Wednesday, the U.S. stocks were mixed even as the Federal Reserve decided to continue with its stimulus measure to revive economic growth. The Federal Open Market Committee meeting that concluded Wednesday opted to continue buying $45 billion of treasury securities per month next year, with the expiring Operation Twist program being replaced with an expansion of QE3.

“The Committee will closely monitor incoming information on economic and financial developments in coming months. If the outlook for the labor market does not improve substantially, the Committee will continue its purchases of Treasury and agency mortgage-backed securities, and employ its other policy tools as appropriate, until such improvement is achieved in a context of price stability,” the FOMC said in its statement.

Meanwhile, according to the data released Wednesday by the Labor Department, the import price index, which measures the change in the price of imported goods and services purchased domestically, fell 0.9 in November down from a 0.3 percent increase in October. The Dow Jones Industrial Average marginally fell 0.02 percent, the S&P 500 Index was up 0.04 percent and the Nasdaq Composite Index declined 0.28 percent.

European markets fell Thursday as investors remained cautious amid the concerns of debt burden affecting the euro zone. European finance ministers reached an agreement to have a new supervisory mechanism for the euro zone banks which could mark an important step towards banking and eventually fiscal union. London's FTSE 100 was down 1.73 points, Germany's DAX 30 index fell 4.59 points and France's CAC 40 dropped 1.63 points.

Most of the Asian stocks rose Thursday with South Korea’s Kospi advancing 14.09 points and India’s Sensex gaining 4.59 points. Also, Japan's Nikkei average crossed 9,700 to touch an eight-month high as investor sentiment was lifted amid hopes that policymakers will soon announce stimulus measures to boost the growth of the world’s third largest economy.