U.S. stock index futures were modestly higher Thursday, helped by some better-than-expected economic data and a day after logging a massive post-election plunge that pushed the Dow below 13,000 for the first time in nearly two months.
On the economic front, jobless claims fell 8,000 to a seasonally adjusted 355,000 in the previous week, according to the Labor Department. Economists had expected a reading of 370,000. The four-week moving average rose 3,250 to 370,500.
And the U.S. trade deficit narrowed in September to $41.55 billion as exports increased, according to the Commerce Department, suggesting the economy expanded more than previously believed in the third quarter. Analysts expected the gap to widen to $45.0 billion.
Stocks took a sharp 2-percent nosedive in a post-election selloff Wednesday, with the Dow logging its biggest decline in nearly a year, prompted by concerns over the looming "fiscal cliff" and amid renewed worries over Europe's weak economy.
Among earnings, Kohl's posted slightly higher earnings and the department store chain forecast same-stores sales will rise during the current holiday quarter.
Dean Foods jumped after the food and beverage company topped earnings expectations and raised its full-year forecast.
Apple edged higher in pre-market trading a day after the tech giant finished down 20 percent from its high, closing in bear market territory.
JPMorgan gained after the financial giant said U.S. regulators approved a plan for the company to use its capital to buy back its stock in the first quarter of 2013.
McDonald's edged lower after the fast-food giant posted its first monthly sales drop in nine years.
European shares gained after the Greek parliament passed further austerity measures by a narrow margin.
The European Central Bank left interest rates unchanged at a record low of 0.75 percent as expected. ECB President Mario Draghi said growth momentum in the euro zone was expected to remain weak.
"Economic activity in the euro area is expected to remain weak although it continues to be supported by our monetary policy stance and financial market confidence has visibly improved on the back of our decisions as regards Outright Monetary Transactions," said Draghi at a press conference, referring to the bank's bond buying program unveiled in September.
China formally commences its once-in-a-decade leadership change when the 18th Communist Party Congress meeting starts later Thursday. The Party's fifth generation of leaders will be appointed, and could shed more light on its likely policy direction.
—By CNBC's JeeYeon Park (Follow JeeYeon on Twitter: @JeeYeonParkCNBC)
Coming Up This Week:
THURSDAY: 30-yr bond auction, Kellogg analyst day, 3M investor mtg, OPEC press conference; Earnings from Disney, Groupon, Nordstrom, Nvidia, Kayak, Zipcar
FRIDAY: Import/export prices, consumer sentiment, wholesale trade; Earnings from JCPenney
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