U.S. stock index futures came off their best levels Thursday after the ECB cut their growth forecast for the euro zone, but held modest gains after Draghi said the central bank agreed to launch a new bond-buying program and following some upbeat employment reports.
The ECB said it expects a very gradual economic recovery in the euro zone and lowered its GDP forecasts to between 0.6 percent and 0.2 percent for this year. The euro erased gains against the dollar.
Meanwhile, ECB President Mario Draghi said the new bond-buying program will be a "fully effective backstop," speaking at a press conference after the Council's monthly meeting in Frankfurt.
Seeking to back up his pledge to do whatever it takes to preserve the euro, Draghi said the new bond-buying program, called Monetary Outright Transactions (MOT), aimed at the secondary market, would "safeguard the monetary policy transmission in all countries in the euro zone area."
Earlier, the ECB kept interest rates unchanged at 0.75 percent.
European shares were also trading higher, but gains were capped by disappointing PMI data out of the euro zone in the previous session, which showed the region’s private sector contracted in August for the seventh consecutive month.
On the employment front, jobless claims declined 12,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 365,000, hitting its lowest level in a month, according to the Labor Department. Economists expected claims to fall to to 370,000, according to a Reuters poll. However, the four-week moving average for new claims, edged up to 371,250.
Private businesses added 201,000 jobs in August, according to a closely watched report from ADP and Macroeconomic Advisors. Wall Street had been expecting an increase of 145,000 new jobs.
Meanwhile, employers announced 32,239 planned job cuts in August, down 12.5 percent from the previous month, to hit a 20-month low, according to a report from consultants Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
“These are good signs for tomorrow but do we really trade on fundamentals or on central banks?” said Joe Saluzzi of Themis Trading. “There are too many factors going on that fundamentals are taking second place to money printing issues.”
The jobs data come ahead of Friday's widely-watched monthly government report for August, which is projected to show nonfarm payrolls rose by a modest 125,000, while the unemployment rate is expected to hold steady at 8.3 percent.
Other economic reports out on Thursday include the Institute for Supply Management’s non-manufacturing index at 10 a.m., which tracks monthly changes in the service sector economy. Economists polled by Briefing.com predict the index fell in August to 52.4, down from 52.6 in July. A reading above 50 indicates an expansion in the non-manufacturing sector.
Amazon.com gained ahead of its media event where the online retailer is expected to introduce a new version of its Kindle Fire tablet.
Apple edged higher after SocGen raised its price target on the iPad maker to $800 from $750.
Among earnings, Hovnanian is slated to post earnings.
—By CNBC’s JeeYeon Park (Follow JeeYeon on Twitter: @JeeYeonParkCNBC)
Coming Up This Week:
THURSDAY: ISM non-mfg index, quarterly services survey, oil inventories, Amazon.com press conference; Earnings from Hovnanian
FRIDAY: Gov't jobs report; Earnings from Kroger, Lululemon
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