U.S. stock index futures added to sharp gains Thursday following a batch of better-than-expected economic news and after encouraging remarks by the ECB President.
On the economic front, weekly jobless claims fell 35,000 to a seasonally adjusted 353,000, dropping to almost a four-year low, according to the Labor Department.
And overall durable goods orders jumped 1.6 percent as demand for aircraft gained, according to the Commerce Department. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast orders to climb 0.4 percent after a previously reported 1.3 percent-gain in May. Excluding transportation, however, orders dropped 1.1 percent, logging the biggest slide since January.
Futures initially rallied after European Central Bank President Mario Draghi pledged to do "whatever it takes" to protect the euro zone from collapse, including fighting unreasonably high government borrowing costs.
"And believe me, it will be enough," said Draghi at an investment conference in London.
Major European markets, which had been flat for the day, turned positive following Draghi's remarks.
Hopes that the U.S. Federal Reserve will increase its efforts to stimulate a flagging economy, with some strategists saying the move will come as early as its rate-setting meeting next week, helped further soothe concerns about the economy.
Among earnings, Exxon Mobil posted a quarterly profit that jumped 49 percent, thanks to gains related to the sale of a stake in its Japanese refining and chemicals business and tax items.
And fellow Dow component United Technologies posted a less than 1 percent earnings, due to the effects of a global slowdown.
Sprint Nextel reported earnings and revenue that