Futures slightly higher after jobless claims report, ahead of Bernanke
U.S. stock index futures were in positive territory Thursday, following a better-than-expected jobless claims report and ahead of the second day of Fed Chairman Bernanke's testimony.
On the economic front, weekly jobless claims dropped by 24,000 to a seasonally adjusted 334,000, according to the Labor Department, to its lowest level in four months. Economists polled by Reuters expected first-time applications to fall to 345,000 last week.
The Philadelphia Fed index and leading indicators will both be released at 10 a.m. Natural gas inventory data will then be reported at 10:30 a.m.
Traders also focused on a handful of earnings reports.
Morgan Stanley spiked higher after the financial giant topped quarterly expectations as revenue grew in all of its major businesses, particularly trading and underwriting.
Elsewhere, Verizon edged past earnings expectations by a penny a share, thanks to strong growth at its Verizon Wireless venture with Vodafone Group. Fellow Dow component UnitedHealth gained after the health insurance giant beat forecasts as more people signed up for plans.
Dell shareholder meeting was adjourned without a vote. The new meeting has been set for July 24 at 6pm ET.
On Wednesday, Bernanke reassured markets that there was no concrete timetable for the Fed to scale back its bond purchase program.
"Our asset purchases depend on economic and financial developments, but they are by no means on a preset course," Bernanke said in his statement to the U.S. House of Representatives Financial Services Committee.
Bernanke also emphasized that there could be a lengthy time-lag between the end of asset purchases and a hike in interest rates.
Bernanke will head back to Capitol Hill on Thursday to testify before the Senate Banking Committee.
European shares were boosted on Thursday by Bernanke's earlier speech, but gains were pared by downbeat second-quarter corporate reports. Both SAP and the Netherlands's Akzo Nobel said the slowdown in China was weighing on sales. Meanwhile, Germany's Ericsson posted operating profit well below expectations.
(Read More: China slowdown weighs on tech giant SAP)