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Stocks seen higher ahead of earnings, Yellen

U.S. stocks were tipped to open higher on Thursday with earnings, the second-leg of Federal Reserve chief Janet Yellen's testimony to Congress and a European Central Bank meeting all in focus.

Better-than-expected earnings results from Intel and Netflix after the closing bell on Wednesday, and news that Greece's parliament voted for key legislation to secure a third bailout, could set a positive tone for the U.S. open.

The Goldman Sachs booth on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange
Getty Images
The Goldman Sachs booth on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange

Stock futures on all three major U.S. stock markets traded in positive territory, with Dow Jones industrial average futures up over 80 points in early London trade.

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Investors have a slew of earnings to digest. Goldman Sachs,Citigroup, Blackstone, Charles Schwab, UnitedHealth, eBay and Phillip Morris are among the firms reporting second-quarter earnings before the market open.

Google, Schlumberger, Mattel, Advanced Micro, Celanese and Cintas are expected to report after the closing bell.

U.S. jobless claims data are due out at 08:30 a.m. ET, following by the Philadelphia Fed survey and NAHB homebuilders' survey at 10 a.m.

In addition to the earnings and data, markets await Yellen's testimony to the Senate Banking Committee. On Wednesday, Yellen reiterated recent comments that interest rates are likely to rise this year.

"These tend to go largely the same way as yesterday's event but should still be monitored closely for any surprises, of which there were none yesterday," Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at currency trading firm Oanda, said in a note.

The European Central Bank meets on Thursday and the central bank is not expected to announce any major changes to interest rates or its monetary stimulus program.

Still, ECB President Mario Draghi is likely to be in the spotlight at a news conference at 08:30 a.m. ET, with focus on whether the bank will increase its Emergency Liquidity Assistance (ELA) to Greek banks, which have been closed for over two week with capital controls in place.

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"The (Greek) banking system is on the verge of collapse and while funds to recapitalize the banks are part of the bailout package, the ECB will need to provide temporary assistance in the meantime," Erlam said.

Greece's parliament on Wednesday night approved a stringent bailout program amid violent protests. European finance ministers, meanwhile, are expected to hold a conference call early on Thursday to agree a plan to provide Athens with a bridging loan to finance its immediate debt service payments until bailout funds are confirmed.

The outcome of the vote in Greece helped European shares open the day higher, while Asian stocks also rallied with China's stock market ending the day up 0.5 percent – recouping some of the previous day's sharp losses.