On the economic front, weekly jobless claims declined to a near five-year low, falling 9,000 to a seasonally adjusted 323,000, according to the Labor Department. Economists polled by Reuters had expected first-time applications to fall to 330,000 last week.
Meanwhile, the number of planned layoffs jumped to 50,462 in August, up more than 30 percent from July and hitting its highest in nearly six months, according to a report from consultants Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. And the number of jobs in the private sector grew by 176,000 in August, up from 200,000 jobs created in the previous month, according to payroll processing giant ADP. Economists had expected ADP to report private jobs growth of 178,000.
The trio of employment data came a day ahead of the Labor Department's widely-watched employment report on Friday, almost two weeks before the Fed's September policy-setting meeting. Economists polled by Reuters expect non-farm payrolls to have increased by 180,000 jobs last month, up from a gain of 162,000 the month prior.
Other data out on Thursday include the latest ISM non-manufacturing index for August, as well as July's factory orders.
The U.S. economy expanded at a "modest to moderate" pace between July and August, according to the Fed's Beige Book, out on Wednesday. Coupled with a strong payrolls reading, the report could strengthen the case for the central bank to start pulling back from quantitative easing.
(Read more: To taper or not: Jobs scrutinized for next Fed move)
Groupon soared after Morgan Stanley raised its rating on the daily-deal site to "overweight" from "equalweight."
Costco rose after the wholesale retailer posted August same-store sales that exceeded Wall Street estimates, despite lower fuel costs and weak foreign exchange rates.
Yahoo unveiled a new logo, the first re-design since the firm was founded nearly 20 years ago. The redesigned look is part of a makeover that Yahoo has undergone since Marissa Mayer to became the company's CEO a little over a year ago.
The euro dropped to a 6-1/2 week low against the U.S. dollar as the European Central Bank kept rates on hold, with ECB President Mario Draghi repeating that the central bank is committed to keeping interest rates low for an extended period.
On the global stage, Syria looks set to dominate two days of talks as the G-20 summit gets under way. The discussions could cause friction between President Barack Obama and Russian leader Vladimir Putin who hold opposing stances on military intervention.
The Senate's Foreign Relations Committee approved the authorization of limited military intervention in Syria on Wednesday, setting the stage for a contentious debate in the Senate on September 9, when it is expected to vote on military action.
—By CNBC's JeeYeon Park (Follow JeeYeon on Twitter:
Coming Up This Week:
THURSDAY: Fed's Kocherlakota speaks, factory orders, ISM non-mfg index, natural gas inventories, oil inventories, Fed balance sheet/money supply
FRIDAY: Fed's Evans speaks, nonfarm payrolls, Fed's George speaks; Earnings from Smithfield Foods, Mattress Firm
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