On the economic front, weekly jobless claims declined 42,000 to a seasonally adjusted 346,000, according to the Labor Department, after a huge jump in the prior week. Economists polled by Reuters had expected a reading of 365,000.
Import prices fell 0.5 percent in March as weak petroleum costs offset a spike in food prices, according to the Labor Department, matching expectations. The tame inflation environment should allow the Federal Reserve to stay on its ultra-easy monetary policy course as it tries to nurse the economy back to health.
On Wednesday, minutes from the Fed's March meeting released suggested some policymakers expect to slow the pace of asset purchases by mid-year and end them later this year. Under its current quantitative easing program, the Fed purchases $85 billion in Treasurys and mortgage-backed securities each month.
Some large tech companies including Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard and Intel were down sharply in pre-market trading following a report that global computer shipments dropped about 14 percent in the first quarter.
Among earnings, Rite Aid surged after the pharmacy chain posted its second consecutive quarterly profit as the company filled more prescriptions and sold more generic drugs.
Pier 1 Imports slumped after the furniture retailer posted earnings that were mostly in line with expectations, but handed in a weaker-than-expected outlook.
Banking giants JPMorgan and Wells Fargo are slated to post earnings on Friday.
In the bond markets, the Treasury will auction 30-year bonds, while the Federal Reserve is due to purchase $2.75-$3.5 billion ofU.S. Treasury notes.