U.S. Futures

Futures on major U.S. indices point to a higher opening on Thursday ahead of economic data including key weekly jobless claims and non-farm productivity.

Futures on the S&P 500 are up 0.70 percent, futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average are up 0.60 percent and Nasdaq100 futures are up 0.56 percent.

Investors are likely to focus on weekly initial jobless claims and nonfarm productivity which are due to be released before market opens, while ISM non-manufacturing index will be released after market opens.

Ahead of Friday's December nonfarm payrolls report, the Department of Labor is due to report the initial jobless claims data at 8:30 am EDT. The economists forecast initial jobless claims to be 400,000 for the week ended February 26 against 391,000 of the previous week. Any data that is weaker than expected will weigh on market sentiments.

Payroll firm ADP Employer Services said on Wednesday that employment in the US private sector rose more than expected in February, posting a gain for the fifth consecutive month. On seasonally adjusted basis, private-sector employment rose 217,000 in February, from upwardly revised gain of 189,000 in January, while economists estimated an increase by 175,000.

ISM non-manufacturing index is due to release at 10:00 am EDT, which is expected to show a reading of 59.00 in February compared to 59.40 in January.

On Wednesday, U.S. stocks edged higher on some positive jobs data and reassurance from the Federal Reserve that the economy is recovering. However, any equity gains were capped by fears over the continued unrest in Libya and rising crude oil prices.

European Markets

European stock markets are currently trading higher as upbeat U.S. jobs data and an easing of oil prices buoyed sentiment.

The Euro Stoxx50 gained 0.97 percent to 2,987.40. DAX30 advanced 59.14 points or 0.82 percent to 7,240.26, CAC 40 gained 41.85 points or 1.04 percent 4,076.17 and the FTSE 100 advanced 57.21 points or 0.97 percent to 5,972.10.

Anheuser-Busch InBev shares gained 3.21 percent as the company reported fourth quarter earnings of 2.8 billion euros against analysts’ expectations of 2.4 billion euros.

Alcatel-Lucent shares surged 7.36 percent on rumors of a potential bid from an unidentified Chinese company. The company stock was upgraded to “buy” rating at Barclays.

Airline sector shares gained as oil prices eased. Deutsche Lufthansa AG gained 1.31 percent and Air France-KLM advanced 0.76 percent.

Asian Markets

Most Asian stock markets ended higher on Thursday, helped by upbeat U.S. jobs data and an easing of oil prices after reports of a possible peace deal in Libya.

Tokyo shares advanced, led by gains from exporters amid optimism over U.S economic recovery. Japanese benchmark index Nikkei gained 0.89 percent or 93.64 points to 10,586.02. Hitachi advanced 1.01 percent to 497 yen and Honda Motor gained 0.85 percent to 3,550 yen, while Advantest gained 1.51 percent to 1,673 yen after JP Morgan raised its recommendation on the semiconductor industry.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index advanced 73.76 points or 0.32 percent to 23,122.42, led by gains from financial sector stocks. Industrial and Commercial Bank of China gained 1 percent as the bank raised its first quarter outlook. Cathay Pacific Airways gained 2.24 percent as oil prices eased.

Chinese Shanghai composite declined 0.34 percent or 9.98 points to 2,903.83. Air China Ltd. declined 1.798 percent and China Southern Airlines fell 2.07 percent, while China Merchants Bank Co. surged 4.15 percent.

South Korean shares surged, following better-than-expected industrial production data. Benchmark Seoul composite gained 42.42 points or 2.20 percent to 1,970.66. Kia Motors surged 6.63 percent and Hyundai Motor gained 2.79 percent, while Hynix Semiconductor advanced 3.26 percent after JP Morgan raised its recommendation on the semiconductor industry.