Stock futures for the Dow Jones industrial average, the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq 100 rise 0.4 to 0.5 percent, pointing to a stronger start on Wall Street on Thursday.

Investors awaited results from major companies including Microsoft , Procter & Gamble

, 3M , , AT&T, Colgate-Palmolive , Ford and Motorola .

Commerce Dept releases December durable goods orders at 1330 GMT. Economists in a Reuters survey expect a 2.0 percent rise in orders, compared with a 0.2 percent drop in November.

At 1330 GMT (8:30 a.m. EST), Labor Dept releases first-time claims for jobless benefits for the week ended January 23. Economists in a Reuters survey forecast a total of 450,000 new filings compared with 482,000 filings in the prior week.

Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago releases at 1330 GMT (8:30 a.m. EST) its Chicago Fed National Activity Index for December. The index read -0.32 in November.

U.S. stocks rose on Wednesday after the Federal Reserve pledged to keep interest rates near zero, and stock futures signaled more gains ahead after President Barack Obama struck a conciliatory tone on banks in his State of the Union speech, also pushing job creation to the top of his agenda, proposing the use of $30 billion of bank bailout repayments to boost lending to small businesses.

Wall Street executives hit back on Thursday at U.S. Obama's plan to curb big banks, questioning whether proposals reaffirmed in his State of the Union address would ever become law.

Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke's nomination for a second term running the world's most powerful central bank faces a decisive day in the Senate on Thursday when his confirmation vote looks set to go ahead.

Japan's Nikkei average rose 1.6 percent to snap a four-day losing streak on Thursday, with upbeat reports on profits at Honda Motor <7267.T> and Sony Corp <6758.T> adding to momentum from strong earnings at other big name stocks such as Canon <7751.T>.

But Toyota Motor Corp <7203.T> slid on concerns about its suspension of U.S. sales of key car models. Toyota could face an unprecedented recall of 8 million cars over problems with sticking accelerators in the biggest ever blow to the reputation of the world's largest auto maker.

Shares of Qualcomm Inc dropped more than 3 percent to $45.50 after the bell on Wednesday as the company's outlook disappointed investors.

Shares of Tetra Tech declined 10.3 percent after the closing bell on Wednesday as it posted results, and shares of Netflix rose 7 percent after the bell as the company released results.

Several franchise holders of McDonald's Corp's German unit have accused the world's largest hamburger chain of trying to force them out of their contracts, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> gained 41.87 points, or 0.41 percent, to end at 10,236.16 on Wednesday. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> rose 5.33 points, or 0.49 percent, to 1,097.50. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> climbed 17.68 points, or 0.80 percent, to 2,221.41.

European equities gained 1.3 percent in early trade on Thursday, bouncing back from a sharp one-week slide, after U.S. President Barack Obama moderated his tone on bank restrictions.

(Reporting by Atul Prakash; Editing by Mike Nesbit)