Stocks looked set to continue their positive start to the quarter and jump higher at the open Thursday, as investors looked more favorably on banking shares ahead of pivotal accounting rule changes.
Investors were largely unbothered on initial jobless claims numbers that hit a 26-year high, and gave futures a boost as headlines began to break on the Financial Accounting Standards Board's changes to mark-to-market accounting.
Tentative positive signs from the housing market and movement on mark-to-marketing accounting rules helped to boost sentiment Wednesday, which was feeding through to the futures. Better-than-expected auto sales also pushed the market higher.
Futures indicated gains of more than 1 percent in the major indexes off Wednesday's rally, which came amid thin volume and an apparent lack of sellers rather than a large influx of buyers.
The indexes backed off their morning highs following initial jobless claims numbers that came in higher than expected.
Bank of America shares shot higher, gaining more than 12 percent in premarket trading as the company seeks to sell asset manager Columbia Management and First Republic Bank, sources told the Wall Street Journal.
BofA shares also got a boost after CEO Ken Lewis said during a live interview on CNBCthat the bank had a "huge" capital cushion, though it would take some time before it could pay back government bailout money.
Other big bank stocks were set to reap further benefits with Citigroup up more than 16 percent, while JP Morgan Chase rallied more than 11 percent premarket.
Automakers also were up sharply after the major manufacturers all reported sharply lower sales numbers that nonetheless beat expectations. GMAC, the financing arm of General Motors, also said Wednesday that it would resume making loans to subprime borrowers in order to spur sales.