Wall Street futures pointed to a firmer start for equities, after gains in Europe. The Dow closed lower in the previous session on weak durable goods data and a downbeat assessment of the economy from the Fed's Beige Book.

Futures for the Dow Jones industrial average, the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq 100 all gained 0.3 percent to 0.6 percent.

Labor Dept releases at 8:30 a.m. ET first-time claims for jobless benefits for the week ended July 24. Economists in a Reuters survey forecast a total of 459,000 new filings compared with 464,000 in the prior week.

Major companies reporting results on Thursday include Moody's Corp , Colgate-Palmolive , Kellogg Co., McAfee , MetLife , Eastman Chemical Co. , Motorola , Franklin Resources and Automatic Data Processing .

BP Plc may permanently shut the well that caused the worst off-shore oil spill in U.S. history as early as Monday, the company said as speculation grew over assets it might sell to cover mounting costs.

France's Sanofi-Aventis plans to make a formal offer of up to $18.7 billion for Genzyme after its informal overture failed to strike interest, sources familiar with the situation said on Wednesday.

VistaPrint N.V. shares tumbled 29.6 percent to $35.40 in extended trade on Wednesday after the company posted quarterly earnings and gave its full-year outlook. Symantec also fell about 6 percent as it reported results.

European shares rose on Thursday, boosted by strong company earnings as results from AstraZeneca and Capgemini pleased investors. The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 <.FTEU3> index of top shares was up 0.5 percent.

Japan's Nikkei fell 0.6 percent on Thursday after hitting a two-week closing high the previous day.

U.S. stocks fell on Wednesday after weak durable goods figures and a downbeat assessment of the economy from the Fed's Beige Book kept the benchmark S&P 500 trapped below its 200-day moving average.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> dropped 39.81 points, or 0.38 percent, to 10,497.88. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> dropped 7.72 points, or 0.69 percent, to 1,106.12. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> dropped 23.69 points, or 1.04 percent, to 2,264.56.

(Reporting by Atul Prakash; editing by Simon Jessop)