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Stocks Set to Rebound on Earnings Strength

U.S. stock index futures pointed to a higher open Thursday after a testimony by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke spooked investors and pushed the major indexes lower in the previous session.

Bernanke gave investors reason to question the strength of the economic recovery Wednesday when he described the outlook as "unusually uncertain."

The selloff, though, may have been a knee-jerk reaction as the market looks ready to reverse the losses on a string of mostly positive earnings reports.

Futures were little changed by a government report showing that jobless claims climbed 37,000 in the past week, though continuing claims fell 223,000. The numbers underscored the difficulty in gauging the true unemployment picture as Congress debates whether to extend benefits to about two million workers who fell off the rolls in July.

On the earnings front, positive surprises from a handful of Dow components helped set the tone.

Economic bellwether Caterpillar reported earnings of $1.09 a share that beat estimates and sent shares higher premarket.

AT&T also beat the Wall Street view, pushing its shares up 1.6 percent premarket.

And 3M also powered higher with across-the-board sales gains, and its shares rose 2 percent.

Travelers was the only one of the bunch to disappoint, with earnings of $1.38 a share that missed, though shares were not trading premarket.

European shares were higher ahead of the results of the EU's bank stress tests due on Friday. Asian indexes closed mixed in the wake of Bernanke's comments.

Bernanke will be back on Capitol Hill Thursday, repeating Wednesday's Senate testimony for House members. Traditionally, the second day of his semi-annual testimony has little market impact compared with day one.

The economic agenda kicks off with the Labor Department's weekly read on initial jobless claims at 8:30 am New York time. Economists are expecting 446,000 claims compared to last week's reading of 429,000.

At 10 am, the National Association of Realtors is out with June existing home sales, with consensus forecasts calling for a drop of 8.1 percent compared to a May downfall of 2.2 percent. At the same time, the Conference Board releases its June Index of Leading Economic Indicators, with a 0.3 percent drop expected, following an increase of 0.4 percent in May.

Earnings releases after the bell Wednesday included better-than-expected numbers from Qualcomm, Netflix, and eBay, while Starbucks disappointed with its latest results.

Symbol
Price
 
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EBAY
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MMM
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NFLX
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QCOM
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SBUX
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T
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TRV
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In other news, the Senate passed the bill which restores unemployment benefits to millions of Americans. And U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to sign the measure into law after a final House vote later Thursday.

- Peter Schacknow, Senior Producer, CNBC Breaking News Desk, contributed to this report.