U.S stock index futuresheld their gains Thursday as jobless claims rose less than expected in the previous week and investors awaited latest meeting minutes from the the Federal Reserve.
Weekly jobless claims rose 4,000 to a seasonally adjusted 367,000, according to the Labor Department. Economists polled by Reuters expected a reading of 370,000 new claims in the week ending September 29, up from 359,000 in the previous week.
Meanwhile, planned layoffs in September jumped 4.9 percent to 33,816, after hitting a 20-month low in August, according to the report from consultants Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
However, reactions to the data were muted as investors looked ahead to the government's monthly jobs report due Friday. The nonfarm payroll data is expected to show that employers added 113,000 jobs last month, while the unemployment rate is seen rising to 8.2 percent from August's 8.1 percent, according to a Reuters poll.
On the economic front, the government will also release factory orders for August at 10 am ET. Economists polled by Reuters forecast a 5.8 percent fall in orders, versus a 2.8 percent rise in July.
Hewlett-Packard traded flat after the tech giant plunged 13 percent to a 10-year low in the previous session after the Dow component cut earnings guidance for 2013.
Facebook rallied after the social-networking giant said it reached 1 billion active monthly usersin September, and is up by 45 million users since June.
Sprint tumbled after Baird downgraded the wireless communications company to "underperform" from "neutral."
European shares were slightly higherafter the ECB kept its main interest rate on holdat 0.75 percent.
The Spanish Treasury sold approximately 4 billion euros ($5.17 billion) in bonds on Thursday, at the top end of its target, with investor confidence high that the Spanish government will soon request a bailout.
—By CNBC’s JeeYeon Park (Follow JeeYeon on Twitter: @JeeYeonParkCNBC)
Coming Up This Week:
THURSDAY: Factory orders, FOMC minutes
FRIDAY: Non-farm payrolls, consumer credit
More From CNBC.com: